MILTON - The Northumberland County Housing Authority has been notified by the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) that it has been approved for a $500,000 Keystone Communities/Public Improvement grant to be used for blight remediation program.

The funds will be used to acquire and or demolish blighted properties in Coal Township, Mount Carmel, Shamokin, Sunbury and Ralpho Township, which all provided matching funds through their respective Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs. Matching funds will also be provided through the county's CDBG program as well as the county housing trust fund.

This brings the total to more than $1 million secured by the housing authority for blighted property removal. It includes private contributions from businesses in exchange for state tax credits.

State Rep. Kurt Masser (R-107) called approval of the funds "a huge boost" to the fight against blight.

The effort to address blighted properties began in earnest in the fall of 2011 when Masser convened a blight summit in Coal Township. Out of that, county commissioners agreed to appoint a task force to work with the authority to develop strategies for addressing blighted properties. The task force included state Sen. John Gordner (R-27), Masser, state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-108) and representatives from the public and private sectors. The task force met three times in 2012 and issued its report in August 2012. One of the strategies was to encourage municipalities to enact the provisions of Act 90 of 2010, which permits municipalities to deny permits, including rental housing licenses to owners that are out of compliance with local codes.

Communities receiving funding through the $500,000 DCED grant will be required to implement the provisions in Act 90.

Edward Christiano, executive director of the Housing Authority of Northumberland County praised the effects of Masser, Culver, Gornder and county commissioners Steve Bridy, Vinny Clausi and Richard Shoch, who he said worked together to secure funding.

"Our community partners along with our elected officials all know the importance of a coordinated regional effect in dealing with blighted properties," Christiano said. "Every day we are seeing our local municipalities taking an aggressive approach on blighted properties and owners."

It is expected communities will begin acquiring and demolishing or rehabilitating blighted properties by the end of the March. All of the grant funds must be expended by June 30, 2015.