A new Pennsylvania law gives local governments greater authority to cut through red tape to overcome blight. The law allows governments to take control of blighted or abandoned properties, including canceling tax liens and bank foreclosures, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Under the Land Bank Act, municipalities can designate a local authority to repurpose vacant, delinquent parcels for sale to new owners who will improve the property. Previously, reclaiming those properties was a cumbersome legal process left to sheriff’s offices and redevelopment authorities.

Officials say there are more than 300,000 vacant properties in Pennsylvania, including many properties that are tax-delinquent.  A 2010 report said such properties cost state taxpayers about $20 million a year.

The new law will allow local governments to package blighted properties into large tracts that can accommodate new homes or businesses. The measure applies to municipalities with a population of at least 10,000.

“This could really help us,” Dennis Davin, director of the Allegheny County Economic Redevelopment Department told the Tribune-Review. “We have a vacant property program, where we help municipalities redevelop vacant land when they ask, but it’s a very long process. This could not only shorten the process but reduce the cost of it.”

Other communities have adopted a similar approach to combating blight. Milwaukee, for example, is developing a program to transfer foreclosed property to residents and community organizations to improve them, through such uses as urban agriculture and urban homesteading. The city’s HOME GR/OWN program will draw upon nearly 4,000 vacant lots and foreclosed homes.