Conservatorship Project

Organization: 
Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania
City: 
Philadelphia
State: 
Pennsylvania
Organization Overview: 

The Housing Alliance of PA is a statewide coalition working to provide leadership and a common voice for policies, practices and resources to ensure that all Pennsylvanians, especially those with low incomes, have access to safe, decent and affordable homes. We promote common-sense solutions to balance Pennsylvania's housing market and increase the supply of safe, decent homes for low-income people. For more than a decade, the Housing Alliance has advocated for new tools for communities and local governments to combat blight and make the acquisition of vacant and abandoned property cheaper, easier, and faster. The Housing Alliance campaigned for state-level reforms to remove barriers to remediating blight and for new laws giving communities more power to take control of unproductive and underutilized properties. Communities are using these blight-fighting tools today to create land banks, rehabilitate neglected and dangerous properties, and restore civic pride.

Project Name: 
Conservatorship Project
Project Type: 
Program Evaluation; Policy Analysis
Project Overview: 

Conservatorship is a powerful blight remediation tool that gives interested parties the right to petition the court for temporary possession of a nearby blighted, abandoned property for the purpose of making repairs and bringing it up to code, or demolishing it. The law authorizing conservatorship is the Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act, enacted in 2008, amended in 2014, and codified at 68 P.S. §1101 et seq. Conservatorship is a useful tool where all else has failed to motivate the property owner to bring it up to code. Here's how it works. A neighbor, nonprofit organization, municipality, school district, or redevelopment authority petitions a judge to appoint a responsible party to bring a neglected property into compliance with code standards. An owner can step in at any time to terminate the conservatorship, but the owner must reimburse the conservator for all costs incurred before regaining control of the property. Once the property has been rehabilitated, if the owner has not approached the court to regain possession after paying all costs, the conservator may seek the court’s permission to sell the property. 

Conservatorship has been used in several Pennsylvania communities -- Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Bethlehem, and communities in Schuylkill, Northumberland, and Butler Counties, to name a few. 

Project goals: (1) quantify the impact of conservatorship on returning blighted properties to productive use, (2) determine conservatorship's effectiveness in motivating code compliance by property owners and achieving code compliance by conservators, and (3) recommend improvements to the conservatorship process. 

Why this matters -- The Housing Alliance has worked for the past decade to advocate for new tools to help communities fight blight and reclaim vacant and abandoned properties to revitalize neighborhoods and grow local economies. Data and analysis regarding the impact of conservatorship will help the Housing Alliance understand how this tool is working and whether it is effective in remediating blight. Analysis and recommendations provided will assist the Housing Alliance in advocating for changes to the conservatorship process.

Deliverable(s):

Excel or other spreadsheet with data gathered from 67 Pennsylvania courts of common pleas.

Written report including (1) project narrative, (2) discussion and analysis of key data points including but not limited to the number of petitions filed, nature of petitioner, and case outcomes, (3) conclusion regarding effectiveness of conservatorship as a blight-fighting tool, and (4) recommendations to improve effectiveness of the conservatorship process.

Spots Available: 
1-3
Eligibility: 
Executive; Full-Time
To Apply: 

To apply for this project, please contact Cassie Tomkins at ctomkins@upenn.edu.

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu