PA taking new measures in bipartisan fight against blight

Pennsylvania is stepping up its fight against blight and doing so in bipartisan fashion. 

The state House Housing and Community Development Committee unanimously approved last week a bill sponsored by Pennsylvania Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, to help municipalities fight blight. House Bill 225 would allow local governments to cooperate with one another to address blight and establish a fund to support enforcement efforts. 

HB 225 heads to the House chamber for consideration. 

Merski said in a statement that Gov. Josh Shapiro has proposed revitalizing communities via new projects, and those investments can transform Pennsylvania communities. 

“But we need to lay the groundwork by eliminating the blighted, abandoned properties that invite crime and deter investment,” said Merski. “My bill would allow communities to join forces in fighting blight and would bolster those efforts by providing the additional resources needed to enforce code violations.” 

To fund new code enforcement programs and the hiring of enforcement officers, HB 255 would create a grant program administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development. 

From blight to housing 

 Sen. Dave Argall, R-Carbon/Luzerne/Schuylkill, received an award from the Association of Community Development Corporations for transforming blighted buildings into housing. 

Argall credited the bipartisan work of government and volunteers for revitalizing Pennsylvania communities by ridding them of decaying and derelict buildings. 

“One of the biggest issues we face is the need to transform more blighted properties into new housing,” he said. 

Argall’s legislation this year to increase funding for demolition earned bipartisan approval by the Senate Urban and Housing Committee. In 2016 he sponsored Act 152, legislation allowing counties to raise money for demolition programs. The program enlists 25 counties and has raised millions of dollars to tear down hundreds of blighted buildings. In 2022, Argall introduced legislation to make the demolition programs permanent. 

Argall’s work to combat blight includes creating housing for seniors from a blighted building and an empty lot; demolishing the shell of a burned-out factory and converting it into 36 housing units for seniors; restoring the upper floors of vacant buildings into housing units; and transforming unused upper floors of buildings into apartment units.

Pa.’s largest indoor indoor greens farm opens in Carbon

Gov. Josh Shapiro was in Carbon County Wednesday for the grand opening of Little Leaf Farms. 

The new farm is now the largest indoor-grown leafy greens production facility in the state. 

Officially opened in McAdoo this fall as part of its expansion, Little Leaf Farms – which produces packaged lettuce sustainably grown through controlled environment agriculture – grows its presence in Carbon County with the opening of this second facility in Pennsylvania. 

Little Leaf Farms already owns 180 acres in McAdoo and opened its first 10-acre greenhouse in July 2022.  

The additional capacity of 10 acres with this expansion will allow Little Leaf Farms to increase its retail presence to nearly 5,000 grocery stores, making its produce available at most major retailers from the Midwest to the Southeast. 

The indoor farm expects to employ around 170 workers by the end of the year.  

The state supported the project with $3.5 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grants. 

“Pennsylvania has a proud agricultural heritage, and our agriculture sector is a key driver of our economy, contributing over $132 billion to our economy and supporting nearly 600,000 jobs,” said Shapiro. “I want to plant a flag and show the rest of the country that Pennsylvania is a leader in agriculture, job creation, and innovation – and Little Leaf Farms’ investment in our Commonwealth is proof that the future is being grown right here in Carbon County. Pennsylvania is open for business and my Administration will continue to support our farmers, scientists, and entrepreneurs who want to grow and thrive here in the Commonwealth.” 

The new production facility will house state-of-the-art technology and efficiencies, including advanced heating, cooling, and lighting systems, and will integrate the brand’s hands-free automated grow system, meaning the leafy greens are untouched from seed to packaging and do not require washing. Little Leaf Farms’ lettuce is farmed 365 days a year, harvested daily, and delivered from greenhouse to grocery store within 24 hours. 


Lehigh Valley housing prices, inventory trend upward for January

While closing sales dipped in the housing market in the Lehigh Valley in January, the good news is inventory is up meaning there’s more houses for buyers to choose from. 

The Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors said January data showed the start of the year in a state of rebalance, with many buyers and sellers remaining cautious while they wait to see where the real estate market is headed. 

“Although home prices remain high, mortgage rates declined steadily throughout January, falling to their lowest level since September, sparking a recent surge in mortgage demand,” said GLVR CEO Justin Porembo. “Lower rates should aid in affordability and may soon lead to an uptick in market activity ahead of the spring selling season.” 

Closed Sales dipped 38.1% to 349 listings, however, inventory, which has been at record lows, increased 12.8% 

There were 571 available housing units in January for Lehigh and Northampton counties. That increase in inventory led to months’ supply of inventory trending upward 28.6% to 0.9 months.  

With inventory still not at sufficient, comfortable levels, the median sales price increased 10.9% to $300,000.

Also in January, new listings slipped 9.2% to 492. Pending sales were down 4.2% to 453. 

Percentage of list price received tumbled 2.7% to 99%. 

 Homes sold on average in 27 days, an increase of 22.7% or five days. 

Looking at Carbon County, the median sales price increased to $231,000. Closed sales were down to 37. Pending Sales dropped to 42. New listings dipped to 58 – a change of just four listings. Inventory increased to 101 units, leading to a months’ supply of inventory that increased to 1.6 months. Days on market jumped to 46 days. 

“Demand for housing persists, and many would say higher mortgage interest rates have cut into housing affordability,” said GLVR President Howard Schaeffer. “But with homes spending a little longer on the market, buyers have more time and negotiating power when shopping for a home. Seller concessions are making a comeback, too. At the end of a deal, it all balances out, and my clients are notably seeing in real-time the affordability story isn’t quite as alarming as it seems on the surface.”