Harrison • Brackenridge • Tarentum

Joint Comprehensive Plan

Table of Contents

Property Deterioration

H-B-T Comprehensive Plan – Key Item #1


The story of blight in our communities has similar origins throughout Western PA.  In some cases, a lack of jobs may lead people to move out, which leaves homes and businesses vacant. Also, as the population ages, deaths can leave homes unoccupied. People who inherit properties may not want them, and owners sometimes turn the houses into rentals or just walk away. Some owners do not have the intention to care for property, but others may not have the means or capacity to do so.  Some first-time home owners may not know how.

Deteriorating property can be cancerous when it recurs and radiates from clusters. Our communities must contain it so that it does not start to harm property values next door, or on the next street, or the next block. An impression by residents or outsiders that blight is eroding a community can have a snowballing effect on the community’s prospects. We must work to turn the tide, although that is difficult, as we have all seen over a few decades of effort.

All three municipalities recognize the importance of this issue, which they hold in common. The communities have had some success in addressing property deterioration or blight on a case-by-case basis through code enforcement, legal action, property acquisition, remediation, demolition and/or redevelopment.

Each community has its own level of resources to apply to the problem – though never nearly enough – and each continues to make efforts and try new solutions despite a sense that this is a never-ending problem. Most recently, a volunteer group in Tarentum has begun an early intervention initiative to help some property owners to hold the line on decline.

The Problems

  • Lack of data
  • Lack of a consistent, unified approach
  • No overarching strategy:
  • Full coordination with redevelopment efforts has not been established:
  • Cumbersome processes
  • Lack of coordination with Highlands School District
  • Toxic materials exposure
  • High costs
  • Lack of strategies to assist homeowners
  • Lack of awareness of programs
  • Public perception

Looking Ahead

We feel that property deterioration can best be addressed through a coordinated effort among the communities. Efforts to address property deterioration and blight should:

  • Be developed jointly among the three communities, sharing services to the greatest degree feasible
  • Create common definitions within the continuum of property deterioration
  • Create and work from a unified, consistent and up-to-date database
  • Align with jointly developed overarching strategies that include prevention and remediation as well as removal and redevelopment
  • Be developed and implemented in the context of economic and community development goals and efforts
  • Emphasize strategies to assist people who live in substandard housing.