Tracy and Bridget Bagner thought they just lived next door to Norristown's urban blight problem - until officials tore down their neighbor's dilapidated rowhouse in March.
Then came the knock on the Bagners' door ordering them out, too.
The demolition team next door discovered structural problems extending to abutting houses, forcing the Bagners and the nearby Nelligan family to move out immediately - and making them examples of the complexity of fighting Norristown's woes.
Now, because of Norristown's effort to preserve their block, the Bagners are looking at becoming homeless when a charity apartment runs out June 15.
"It would have been a lot worse if those properties had collapsed," Norristown Municipal Administrator Dave Forrest said, "and they would have brought down the Nelligans' and the Bagners' homes with them."
At a Republican-only legislators' meeting on blight yesterday in Norristown, the Bagners' plight was criticized sharply.
"There was no Plan A or Plan B for these people," said State Rep. Jay R. Moyer (R., Worcester).
After hearing the Bagners' stories and experts' analyses of the blight plaguing Pennsylvania cities large and small, legislators from the House Republican Policy Committee said they would consider several ways to help places with infrastructure problems like Norristown's.
They heard about problems, including absentee landlords' making little effort to maintain their properties and the difficulty of luring developers into blighted areas where tax liens and land titles can be unclear.
"It's very easy to do greenspace development," said Liz Hersh, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. "You know about what you've got. You can see it. In the cities, it's much, much harder."
Hersh encouraged land-banking, wherein governments buy troubled properties, clear the titles and, thus, make development easier to conduct.
Along with Bagner, David Nelligan told the panel about being forced from a home on West Elm Street with little notice when Norristown officials tore down the worst-off houses on their row.
Until the Bagners' kitchen and bathroom, which are cracking away from their house, can be rebuilt for an estimated $30,000 or more, the family can't return home. They also have few other places to go, with two children and one income in the family.
Bridget Bagner said her postal salary doesn't go far beyond keeping up the $420 mortgage payments on the house they bought in 1989.
"This could have happened to anybody," Bagner said.