Burned-out abandoned properties are the target of a new York County lawmaker's second piece of proposed legislation.
State Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, the city's former community and economic development director, recently introduced a bill to help municipalities address homes damaged by fire and never brought back up to code.
State law mandates that municipalities hold $2,000 for every $15,000 a homeowner gets from an insurance company after a fire. The money is put into escrow, and the municipality doesn't give it to the homeowner until the home has been repaired or the home has been demolished and the site is clear.
So if an insurance company pays a homeowner $60,000 for damage from a fire, the municipality would keep $8,000 until the home was brought back up to code or demolished.
But Schreiber said the current law falls short of giving the municipality options if the homeowner takes the insurance money and leaves the home burned out and abandoned. Under such a scenario, the municipal money stays in escrow indefinitely and can't be used by the municipality to cover its expenses in dealing with the blighted property, Schreiber said.
Fighting blight: Municipalities are the first responders for neighborhood complaints about burned-out homes that serve as havens of illegal activity and dumping grounds, Schreiber said, and they often must pay to board up, tear down, clean up trash or mitigate issues with the abandoned properties.
Cities such as York can send bills to property owners, but many of them never pay, he said.
Under his proposal, the escrow fund would increase to $4,000 for every $15,000 paid in insurance money, and the municipalities would be able to use the money -- after one year -- to reimburse themselves for any expenses incurred as a result of the abandoned home, Schreiber said.
So if an insurance company paid a homeowner $60,000 for damage from a fire but the homeowner abandoned the home, the municipality would have $16,000 to, for example, demolish the home.
York City Mayor Kim Bracey said that's still short of the estimated $25,000 it costs to raze a row house, "but every little bit helps."
The city doesn't currently get any of the money, she said, so the bill would help the city address blight if it becomes law.
Fighting blight: Bracey said York City has paid to raze at least one burned-out home during her 3 1/2 years as mayor, but there are several other homes on a waiting list for available funding so the city can demolish them.
Abandoned homes detract from the city's neighborhoods because they're eyesores and health hazards, she said. They can become infested with rodents or insects or used for illegal activities. There's also a risk of second fires breaking out at the burned-out homes because homeless people start fires in them to stay warm, and they're targets for arsonists, she said.
Schreiber's bill, House Bill 1833, the Municipal Fight Blight Bill, was referred to the House Insurance Committee.