RAWIM Receives Two NAR Grants for Third Annual Blight Summit

By Kim Shindle | May 8, 2024 | 3 min. read

The Realtors® Association of Westmoreland, Indiana and Mon Valley participated in the third annual Blight Remediation Summit, held recently by the Westmoreland County Redevelopment Authority and Landbank RA/LB.

RAWIM received two National Association of Realtors® grants, a $7,500 Housing Opportunity grant and a $3,000 Smart Growth grant, to help sponsor the event.

Blight has been an ongoing issue for the county, which local organizations are working together to find creative solutions to help solve. The county commissioners allocated $10.4 million toward the issue in 2023 and half of the nearly 300 blighted structures have been removed countywide.

With the decline of manufacturing and industry over the past four decades, Westmoreland County has experienced a socioeconomic decline from the loss of steady, well-paying blue-collar jobs, decreased opportunity for youth and growing families, population decline combined with a generally aged/aging population, etc. The county is poised to make positive changes, thanks to the hard work of the public sector, private industry, nonprofits and local, state and federal governments. American Rescue Plan Act funding is providing some funding to allow the Westmoreland County Redevelopment Authority and Land Bank to eliminate blight from ARPA-qualified county communities at an unprecedented rate.

RAWIM President Kathie Zimmerman spoke at the event, noting the lack of housing inventory available in local communities. “Normally, pre-pandemic there were 989 homes on the market. There are currently 445. We need more homes.”

Guest speaker Megan Reneiccus from Opticos Design discussed “The Missing Middle,” which addresses affordable, residential, middle-class housing shortage issues. The goal was to provide attendees with the knowledge and tools they need to help redevelop their communities and attract young, growing families.

Justin Capouellez, RAWIM field representative, said, “RAWIM appreciates the work that the county and the Redevelopment Authority and Land Bank are doing to address the blight and look for new development opportunities. We want to be a partner to help make the county a better place to live, work and play.”

Zimmerman added, “Together, we all have a part in this process. The developer and architect create the building plans, the zoning board approves and makes recommendations, the banks lend, the builders build, the Realtors® sell, the new residents and families make our community vibrant by adding to the taxbase, thus making services sustainable and placing our communities on a growth trajectory to attract more population and businesses. It’s a challenging task, but together, if we are all willing to work together, we can accomplish great things.”

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