In an attempt to reverse decades of economic decay and attract investment, a city outside Pittsburgh is dangling a major incentive on its vacant homes.
Monessen Mayor Matt Shorraw said his administration will wipe out back taxes on properties if a new owner commits to cleaning them up and renovating, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Pennsylvania city has so far managed to find owners — about half of whom are investors — for about four dozen vacant homes and commercial properties.
Monessen’s population has gradually declined from about 20,000 in the 1940s to only 7,300 or so as of 2019. One in 10 properties is vacant, many because they’ve accrued thousands of dollars in back taxes.
To qualify for a tax wipe, a buyer must agree to spend more than three times the amount of back taxes on repairs. For folks who have the money, spending that amount to renovate a decrepit home likely won’t be difficult.
One program participant, Maria Marquez, got a house that had been abandoned for several years. She started with $10,000 worth of work and expects the entire renovation to cost around $25,000.
Time might be running out to participate in the program. Shorraw lost the Democratic primary in the spring and his term ends in January.
Ron Mozer, the likely incoming mayor, said there are better ways to clear back taxes and liens.
Other small towns in the U.S. have tried similar incentive programs to lure residents and investment.
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