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Boroughs across Pennsylvania will have another tool to fight blight in their communities with Act 84 of 2016, which was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf. It will exempt land banks from the state realty transfer tax.
The legislation, previously HB 1198, contains Rep. Joseph Petrarca’s (D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana) proposal to exempt from the state portion of the realty transfer tax all real estate transactions involving a land bank. Land banks are entities that focus on converting vacant, abandoned, tax-delinquent, and foreclosed properties into productive use. When the original law was passed in 2012, Petrarca said the intent was to exempt land banks from all state and local taxes, including the realty transfer tax. However, the Revenue Department continued to assess the tax on land banks for certain transactions.
“We want to encourage redevelopment of blighted properties in our communities, not hinder it, which is what the assessment of the realty transfer tax does. My legislation was designed to correct that oversight, and I am pleased this proposal to eliminate collection of the state realty transfer tax has received support in the General Assembly,” Petrarca said. Petrarca said that land banks do good work in communities. For example, in his district, the Westmoreland County Land Bank actively pursues opportunities to return blighted properties to the tax rolls, with both commercial and housing developments.
In fact, it became the first land bank in the Commonwealth to sell a formerly vacant and blighted property to a new owner. Recently, the Westmoreland County Land Bank acquired seven properties from a family estate, and it plans to market the parcels as a multi-family housing complex for moderate income families in Latrobe.