State of the Land Report: April 2024

State of the Land Report:

April 2024

The State of the Land Report is our monthly update where we will be educating and sharing out about everything you need to know about vacant land policy in the City of Pittsburgh!

State of the Land Updates

Property Tax Reassessment in Allegheny County

In our last issues, we learned that property taxes are calculated based on the assessed value of a property and that many of the properties in Allegheny County have not been assessed since 2012. (Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that doesn’t mandate a full property reassessment at regular intervals, although there is some movement to change that.) See Grounded’s previous State of the Land Report to learn more about how property taxes are calculated, and why Pittsburgh’s current system is unjust. Individuals who think that their property value decreased can request to have their property reassessed so that they can lower their property taxes. However, this also applies to large businesses and corporations. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Downtown Pittsburgh has lost a lot of foot traffic, and many of the buildings are now empty. The lowered demand for office space in the Golden Triangle means that these buildings are worth less than they once were. When they are reassessed, the owners have to pay less in taxes, resulting in a significant loss of revenue for the taxing bodies (The City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.) 

Currently, a building’s owner must request for a building to be reassessed, and only owners who think that their property value has decreased will go out of their way to do this, so they can pay less in taxes. While many properties in Pittsburgh have lost value in the last decade, in more affluent neighborhoods, property values have increased. However, it does not benefit property owners to request reassessment if it is going to increase their property taxes. This means that owners of properties that decreased in value are paying less in taxes, but owners of properties that gained value are paying the same amount, resulting in the taxing bodies losing tax revenue necessary for their functioning. It is unclear how detrimental this loss of revenue will be for the city. Some, including City Controller, Rachael Heisler, think that it will destabilize the city’s budget, while others see the controller’s perspective as the worst-case scenario. 

To combat this loss of funding, the taxing bodies have made plans to increase their tax revenue. 

  1. City Council is creating opportunities and tax break incentives to revitalize downtown Pittsburgh, in order to maintain the value of the skyscrapers.
  2. The Pittsburgh Public School District is suing Allegheny County for a total property reassessment
  3. The Mayor’s office is reassessing the tax-exempt status of properties owned by nonprofits
  4. Allegheny County Council introduces an ordinance for a total property reassessment 
  5. Allegheny County started a program to revitalize Downtown: Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance

Advocacy 101:

All In Allegheny Survey Results are here!

The office of the new County Executive, Sara Innamorato, completed a community engagement survey and listening sessions throughout the county. The results and the action plan can be viewed here!

Advocacy Network

Thank you for subscribing to our advocacy network, if you have not already done so please subscribe here.

Grounded is working to improve the condition of vacant lots by developing sustainable solutions that can address the environmental and racial injustices currently entrenched in our property management system. The lack of a comprehensive and unified strategy to care for vacant lots disproportionately affects low-income communities of color. We must ensure that the process of land recycling and maintenance is conducted equitably, transparently, and through an anti-racist framework. Help make change happen in local, state, and federal land-use policies, voice your concerns about vacant land in your community, share how you want to see vacant land transformed, and support your neighbors in obtaining land access and ownership.

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Land Use News 

City council approves expansion of Pittsburgh Land Bank board to give seats to the School District and County

Revitalizing a vacant lot can be very expensive, partially because the new owner needs to pay off the liens and back taxes on the property, which have often accumulated interest over years of neglect. Land banks are effective tools for land recycling because they have the legal ability to make agreements with taxing bodies (the city, county, school board, and water authority) to forgive the liens. These agreements make it financially feasible for many more people to acquire and revitalize these lots. In return for forgiving the liens, the school board and county will have a say in what happens to the vacant properties transferred through the Pittsburgh Land Bank (PLB). This say will come in the form of the ability to appoint a member to the board of the land bank. City Council just approved the expansion of the PLB board to allow seats for the county and school district, moving one step closer to finalizing the taxing body agreements, and making it easier for the PLB to function efficiently and effectively!

Neighborhood Revitalization and Land Banking Act introduced in US Senate

Co-sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey (PA-D) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), this bill would support public land banks across the country in acquiring and revitalizing vacant land. It will also provide Land Banks with technical support, funding, research on best practices, data management, and planning support.

URA to use ARPA funds to revitalize vacant properties

The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority owns about 1,300 parcels in the city of Pittsburgh. 85 of these parcels have structures on them, many of which are not up to code. The URA plans to use $3.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to stabilize or demolish structures and improve infrastructure in order to return the properties to productive use.     

*Grounded does not support the use of the term “blight” in the article linked above. Learn why


Grounded Updates:

Introducing our new Executive Director, Kelly Henderson

We are so excited to welcome Kelly Henderson as the new executive director of Grounded Strategies! 

Kelly brings a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to community self-determination and sustainability. Previously serving as the Director of Programs at Sustainable Pittsburgh, Henderson has demonstrated exemplary leadership in fostering collaborative partnerships, implementing impactful programs, and advocating for equitable and sustainable solutions.

You can learn more about Kelly by reading the official press release here.

Additional Resources & Upcoming Events

  • PCRG's Community Development Summit - May 8-9
    • PCRG’s Community Development Summit is an annual gathering of community leaders, advocates, policymakers and innovators dedicated to forging a brighter future for Pittsburgh's neighborhoods. With a rich history of fostering collaboration and robust attendance, this annual summit serves as a catalyst for transformative change.
  • Environmental Justice Summit - May 9-11
  • Open Streets - May 11
    • OpenStreetsPGH temporarily closes roads to car traffic and invites Pittsburghers to reimagine our streets as places for people. 
  • Pittsburgh Regional Food Systems Summit - May 17
    • The summit will bring together stakeholders from across the region to identify shared goals, foster cross-sector relationships, and bring more attention, engagement, and momentum to the equitable and sustainable development of our regional food system.

Schedule a 1 on 1 with our Project Manager of Land Use Policy, Ruby, to talk more about your experience with vacant land and learn about advocacy opportunities through Grounded and our partners.

Tell us your land acquisition story! 

Have you tried to acquire vacant land through one of the 8 vacant land ownership pathways? Do you want to try to acquire land? What is your feedback? Tell us your story!

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