Three years ago, in March 2012, 200 people attended a forum called New Tools in the Fight Against Blight – presented in partnership by the Local Government Academy, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, Sustainable Pittsburgh, and the Allegheny Municipal & School Solicitors Section of the Allegheny County Bar Association.
The event was instrumental at shining light on blight and abandonment as a ubiquitous problem across the region and a marker of larger region-scale concerns.
According to Court Gould, Executive Director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, that forum "helped to significantly elevate the case for addressing blight and abandonment beyond its traditional view as a social issue to the echelon as a material economic development issue."
"In step with the Broken Window theory, blight and abandonment is both an outcome as well as precursor to a whole host of social, economic, and environmental concerns," says Gould. "As vacant properties manifest, they bring about community withdrawal and the onset of loss of control — inviting a whole host of ills to take hold."
While some consider decaying properties a low civic priority, others see opportunities for assets that can be transformed into productive re-use.
"Measured in terms of a drain on our community, blight and abandonment is responsible for lost tax revenues, reduced property values, and the direct costs of tending to the pernicious spin-off impact of crime, fires and neglect." Gould explains. "This drain has tipped the view of abandoned properties to possible assets that can be transferred and put back to productive use in the community."
Three years after the forum, the fight against blight has become a robust movement that is weighing-in and approaching blight and abandonment as untapped assets as central to the larger regional economic picture as they are to neighborhood quality of life.