Caltagirone anti-blight bill sees action in Senate

HARRISBURG, June 22 – Legislation authored by state Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, to rehabilitate blighted properties while fighting homelessness was reported out of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee today and sent to the full Senate for a vote. 

Caltagirone, who is Democratic chairman of the House Urban Affairs Committee, said his legislation (H.B. 1500) would expand the power of land banks to enter into partnerships with organizations in the private sector so they can collaborate on local solutions to address the lack of housing for the homeless population in their communities. The bill passed the House in April.

Land banks are entities, formed at the municipal level, granted certain powers to acquire vacant and abandoned property, and repurpose it for return to productive use.

"The link between blighted property and homelessness is well documented,” Caltagirone said. “My legislation seeks to offer a solution to communities that have so far been unable to connect the resources necessary to tackle the problem.

"I am grateful to my counterparts in the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee for understanding the seriousness of this issue and the need to see change for the better in our blighted communities," he said. "I am encouraged by today’s action and look forward to the day when this measure becomes law.”

Last year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that at least 15,000 people are homeless in Pennsylvania. Of that number, more than 1,000 people were not sheltered in either an emergency housing shelter or a transitional housing shelter. 

In addition to H.B. 1500, Caltagirone is the author of a companion bill that would act as an incentive by providing a tax credit, under the existing Neighborhood Assistance Program, to private developers who partner with land banks and other nonprofit organizations to rehabilitate these properties. House Bill 1501 also would expand the eligibility criteria of the program to include locations within land bank jurisdictions. That bill was reported from the House Urban Affairs Committee in October and awaits further consideration in the House.

House Bill 1500 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.