Chester getting money to deal with blight

Chester will receive a portion of $5.6 million earmarked for blight removal.
This week, the Catawba Regional Council of Governments (COG) announced the money had been awarded as part of the South Carolina Housing Finance and Development Authority’s “Neighborhood Initiative Program.” The money will be used to acquire, demolish and green blighted residential properties in Chester, Lancaster, Union and York Counties. COG will acquire and manage targeted properties through the demolition and greening process.
South Carolina received an allocation of funding through the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund. The program was started to reduce residential foreclosures through blight-elimination activities.
Dr. Eddie Lee, chair of of the regional COG board (and mayor of York) said the money will help accomplish a number of positive objectives.
“The Neighborhood Initiative Program award will improve many neighborhoods in towns, cities and counties throughout the Catawba Region by helping stabilize property values and preventing avoidable foreclosures. I know that the City of York is looking forward to working with the COG to remove blighted housing in our city. We are excited about the impact that this program will have,” he said.
Chester City Administrator Sandi Worthy said the city and county usually work together on these type of projects and expects that to be the case in this instance as well.
At one point, the city was pursuing the removal of blighted homes itself. However, the city’s demolition efforts had several starts and stops over the years. Money was budgeted for tearing down eyesore houses a few years ago and several houses were torn down. The plan was to remove as many as was financially possible (eight or nine) each year until all the blighted homes in the city were gone. That plan hit a snag when it was discovered that many of the old homes contained asbestos and lead-based paint. That caused the landfill tipping fee charged for debris from the homes to skyrocket in cost. The city pulled the plug on the project, but eventually began working with Chester County in dealing with the issue.

By Travis Jenkins, Staff Reporter with The News & Reporter