Fayette County, Pennsylvania
Fayette County, in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, drapes across the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Once a major coal-producing area, the county is dotted with “patches,” impoverished neighborhoods built above old coal mines. The county is also home to the famed Nemacolin resort and state parks that showcase the area’s natural beauty. The entire area sits on a shelf of shale and what could potentially be the largest source of natural gas in the country.
The county’s Redevelopment Authority offices are located in Uniontown, a small town with a bustling downtown featuring specialty shops and restaurants. Foreclosures and high vacancy rates have been a fact of life in the residential areas of Uniontown and Fayette County for several years. In fact, when talking about NSP or the housing market implosion, Fayette County officials talk about blight more than foreclosures or vacant property. Brownsville is a town in the county that has been most impacted by abandonment, particularly in its downtown, where one local investor has bought up much of the commercial district property. Many of these buildings have been vacant for years, and several are now condemned and slated for demolition, pending funds. The investor involved has proposed several schemes using this property, none of them coming to fruition. The result is an area reminiscent of a deserted mining town.
In Fayette County, both Uniontown and Connellsville have nonprofit redevelopment organizations, which focus more on developing and revitalizing their commercial corridors than on housing issues. Through Pennsylvania’s Elm Street program, which provides support for revitalizing residential areas that abut Main Street commercial districts, the two groups are also looking to mesh housing with commercial development in neighborhood revitalization strategies.
Fayette County, which is made up of primarily rural census tracts, found that the NSP application requirements favored urban areas over the needs of rural communities. Fayette County’s NSP funds were held up by the state legislature’s wrangling over the state budget. Another major challenge is the shortage of available credit for residents interested in buying homes. One official asked: Why build or rehab homes when people won’t be able to buy them because they can’t get financing?
The Fayette County Regional Development Authority enjoys strong relationships with nonprofit housing developers and the local redevelopment organizations, and is leveraging these relationships to implement its NSP plan. The relationships are long-standing, based on past funding of projects and shared goals for improved housing stock and building vital neighborhoods. The Authority’s recent emphasis on strengthening code enforcement practices in NSP communities to prevent fraying of the condition of investor-owned rental housing, along with the complementary use of federal Weed and Seed funds to address crime, is helping to prevent further blight.
Fayette County Redevelopment Authority
724-437-1547 ext. 210