A state Senate bill that would offer a decade of tax breaks to developers working to improve blighted properties across Pennsylvania is a welcome sight and something we hope Gov. Tom Wolf quickly signs into law.

Last week, Senate Bill 352 was approved by the state Senate and House. If signed into law, it would permit local taxing authorities to provide tax exemptions for up to 10 years for any improvements and new construction on blighted properties.

The value of the exemption would reduce annually before expiring after the 10th year.

Projects would only be eligible for the tax abatement if all zoning ordinances are observed, all code violations are cleared, and the value of the property increases by at least 25 percent. The property owner must pay any delinquent taxes related to the subject property.

The bill eyes mixed-use redevelopments, including both residential and non-residential uses, state Sen. Judy Ward, said. Properties that are receiving another tax exemption may not be eligible, Ward noted in her memo attached to the bill.

The proposal makes a lot of sense, both for developers and municipalities anxious to combat blight and return properties to the tax rolls.

The Valley, especially Sunbury and Northumberland County, have long been cited as models in this ongoing push. Having another tool in the tool belt can only help, officials said. We agree.

Apparently, so do state lawmakers. The measure passed the House 201-0 and the Senate 50-0.

“The fight against blight is ongoing and any tools we have to help us is amazing,” said Sunbury City Administrator Jody Ocker. “If it incentivizes people to invest, that’s a good thing. It might help us find partners for projects.”

The county has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to boost its blight programs, including funds that have gone into building housing for seniors and veterans.

This latest bill offers a clear incentive for developers to rehabilitate a property, save money while doing it, and, in the long run, ignite a community with an improved property that can inject tax revenue into a municipality.

“Any type of incentive to do something productive and improve the housing stock is a plus for local governments,” said Ed Christiano, the executive director of the Housing Authority of Northumberland County. “It’s something we’ve been trying to do for years without the tax incentive. This is another tool we can use to accomplish economic development within our own communities and to encourage private investment.”

This latest measure should be an easy one for Gov. Wolf to put his signature to.

Let’s do this quickly and continue to push forward. 

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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