October 6, 2009 |

Wheatley abandoned house bill heard in committee

The House Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing last Wednesday on a bill introduced by state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, designed to help to reduce the number of abandoned properties in Pennsylvania communities.

"There are property owners in this state who lose interest, and the neighbors and communities are left to deal with it. As a result of this hearing, I am hopeful that legislators and stakeholders can push forward and find common ground on my legislation to address this issue," Mr. Wheatley said.

Rep. Wheatley is working with other members of the committee and organizations, including the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania.

H.B. 1322 would change state law on "adverse possession," a process that allows a person who lives in a home that's considered legally abandoned to take ownership of the property. Current law imposes a 21-year waiting period. His bill would reduce that to three, seven or 10 years, depending on the circumstances.

"In addition to helping to reduce blight, this bill would help residents whose claim to a property is in limbo because of problems such as a defective or unfiled deed or an inheritance that wasn't provided through a legal will. Because they lack clear legal ownership, they have problems with getting property insurance, a grant or loan for property repair, utility discounts or real estate tax abatements, payment plans for real estate tax delinquencies or a loan from Pennsylvania's Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program," Mr. Wheatley said.

"Current law provides an incentive to homeowners in these cases to abandon property rather than spending large amounts of money to fix it up. Local governments end up having to spend money to demolish many of these properties. My bill would avoid these unproductive costs and instead help to keep people in homes and help them establish homeownership," he said.

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