It may be near Halloween, but you don’t have to look far around these parts to find a haunted house.
Lawnstarter.com, a website which covers various issues related to landscaping, gardening and home care, has named the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro area number one for real-life ‘haunted’ houses.
For Lawnstarter.com, haunted means old and vacant. That’s the data the website used — the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey about the number of homes built before 1940 and the number of vacant homes.
John Egan, editor-in-chief of Lawnstarter, said the site’s blog entity looked at 259,918 homes throughout Luzerne and Lackwanna Counties.
According to Lawnstarter, older homes and vacant homes have a perceived, if not actual, chance of being haunted.
The investigation showed the two counties have 96,993 homes built in 1939 or before, for a percentage of 37.3. The number of vacant homes in the region is 38,718 — or 14.9 percent.
“When we were done crunching the numbers, it turned out that Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has the most potentially haunted houses on a percentage basis among the 100 largest metro areas in the country,” Egan said.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre ranks ahead of metro areas, including New York City and New Orleans.
To combat the problem of the old, vacant and dilapidated houses across the region, both Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties, as well as municipalities, have created ordinances, groups or individuals to keep eyesores out of communities.
The Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority works with county and municipal officials to assist in improving the quality of life and property for residents. According to the authority’s website, the group, created by Luzerne County Commissioners in the 1960s, helps reduce blight among other community and economic opportunities. It also has undertaken or managed federal and state-financed urban renewal, housing and infrastructure projects in the county.
Andy Reilly, executive director of the authority, understands what Lawnstarter’s data shows.
“We do have an older community,” Reilly said, noting some of the homes in and around Wilkes-Barre, though older, are nice in architecture. “Drive through any neighborhoods.”
Though old, some of the homes contradict the data, Reilly said. He called some homes “very old but unique properties” — the property may be old and outdated outside but immaculate and well-kept inside.
Reilly also heads the Luzerne County Office of Community Development which works with municipalities on slum and blight through its community development block grants.
“We provide them with demolition funds,” he said of municipalities that have purchased blighted, older properties.
Joe D’Arienzo, Lackawanna County’s communications director, said the county operates its own land bank — a public or private entity that acquires, maintains and repurposes vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties.
Pittston, Duryea and West Pittston boroughs, along with Jenkins Township, created the North East Pennsylvania Land Bank Authority. The authority cleans up abandoned and eyesore properties and returns them to the tax rolls. It recently announced the acquisition of a West Pittston property with 11 additional properties to be added in a few weeks.
During summer 2016, Hazleton City Council created an ordinance that requires owners of blighted, vacant or abandoned properties to register them with the city and pay an annual registration fee of $200. At the same July meeting, the council formed a committee to certify blighted vacant properties with the Redevelopment Authority.