U.S. program to help struggling cities begins in Pa.

    The top housing official in the Obama administration is singling out Pennsylvania cities where federal programs stand to benefit struggling neighborhoods.

    Clergy, city council members, and state lawmakers gathered to discuss problems common to Pennsylvania’s older cities, boroughs, and townships.

    Joining them was U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. Donovan, who insisted the federal government has a role to play in ailing neighborhoods, said a program launched in July to rehabilitate financially struggling cities across the country has started in one Pennsylvania city.

    “It’s a pilot initiative which will help six distressed places, including Chester, tackle their toughest problems. Under the creative leadership of Butler, Chester’s already partnered with Widener University to redevelop the city’s downtown,” Donovan said.

    City leaders in the coalition, known as Building One Pennsylvania, echoed concerns of state lawmakers, who have just started the policy debate over how to fix the state’s Act 47 program for financially distressed midsize cities.

    They pointed to the growth of the middle class in suburbs, the shrinking tax base in their towns and the resulting deterioration of city infrastructure.

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