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Philadelphia's Abandoned Properties Get A Second Chance

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) --- In what could be a major step in dealing with the 40,000 abandoned properties across Philadelphia, Mt. Airy USA is the first community development corporation (CDC) to use the commonwealth's conservatorship process to take over an abandoned, blighted property.

The Blighted and Abandoned Property Conservatorship Act (Act 135) allows court-appointed conservators to take over blighted properties and bring them up to code.

Less than six months after filing to take over an abandoned property at 59 East Phil Ellena Street, Mt. Airy USA was given the go-ahead to stabilize the long dilapidated structure.

"It's been a long-standing tax delinquent community eyesore, with outstanding taxes and a host of property code violations," says Anuj Gupta, executive director of Mt. Airy USA. "Conservatorship allows us the legal authority to enter the property, stabilize it, and rehabilitate it to provide a high quality housing option."

Gupta says it'll cost about $60,000 to $70,000 to rehab the property, which they will then sell at market value.

Revenues from the sale will pay more than $10,000 in outstanding liens on the house and reimburse the CDC and other agencies for any improvements.

State Representative Cherelle L. Parker says Act 135 gives CDCs a proactive way to stabilize property value and reduce crime.

"We should do everything that we possibly can in the beginning before we see blight swallow up a community, and this tool helps," she said. "This is the tipping point for us not tolerating historically blighted properties and owners who attempt to abuse the system."

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(Anuj Gupta, director of Mt. Airy USA, at podium. Rep. Cherelle Parker, left of podium. Credit: Cherri Gregg)

Parker says she hopes other CDCs will follow suit. The property is expected to be completed by next March, and be ready for sale next May.

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