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Allegheny County program targets blight in Sharpsburg, 28 other communities

| Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, 1:12 p.m.
This house at 310 13th street in Sharpsburg is being restored through Allegheny County's Vacant Property Recovery Program.
Christine Manganas | For the Tribune-Review
This house at 310 13th street in Sharpsburg is being restored through Allegheny County's Vacant Property Recovery Program.

Love and affection is what real estate investor Nathan Simmons believes a blighted property in Sharpsburg needs to be livable again after at least a decade of sitting vacant.

Simmons is tackling a complete rehab on an abandoned home on 13th Street, with hopes of having it up for rent in just a few months.

“All these homes have good bones, they're just in need of a little love,” Simmons said. “This property is in a decent area and it just needs someone who can put in some long hours.”

In October, Simmons acquired the blighted property through Allegheny County's Vacant Property Recovery Program, in place to take blighted or tax delinquent properties and make them available at a low cost to developers.

Sharpsburg became part of the program in 2012 in an effort to drastically decrease the amount of eyesores in the community, said Councilman Matthew Rudzki.

“It's twofold in a way that it takes blighted property, gets it back on the tax rolls, all while it turns a property into a living home,” Rudzki said. “I think it's beneficial not only for the community, but for people who are looking for ways to purchase affordable housing.”

For years, Sharpsburg has taken strides to decrease the number of blighted, vacated and condemned properties in the borough, including participation in the Allegheny County Tri-COG Land Bank. In 2014, there were 119 blighted homes throughout Sharpsburg. As of last month, Sharpsburg's Code Enforcement Officer Lou Deluca said there are now only 13.

“You can see from the numbers that the momentum here is definitely on the positive side,” Deluca said. “It's difficult right now to find a house in Sharpsburg, because they're selling before the sign even goes up.”

Since the program's start in Sharpsburg, eight Pittsburgh residents and business owners have participated. Like Simmons, several renovated the properties to prepare them as rentals. Others demolished the structures and turned them into side yards, driveways and extended parking lots.

Currently, 28 other municipalities participate in the Allegheny County program. Neighboring communities Etna and Millvale are also part of the program.

In order to be eligible, the property or land must be located in a participating municipality, be vacant and tax delinquent for at least three years.

“Part of the approval process is we, council, have to pass a resolution that it fits our comprehensive plan,” Rudzki said.

Simmons, from Allison Park, has 21 rental properties throughout Pittsburgh, but said this wouldn't be his last renovation in Sharpsburg. He is also looking at other participating municipalities within the program, zeroing in on Swissvale.

“I think the program is excellent and I hope to do it again as soon as possible,” Simmons said.

Christine Manganas is a freelance writer.

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