State of the Land Report: August 2022

Welcome to the State of the Land Report!
August 2022

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!

Workday at Verna’s Side Lot. See Grounded Spotlight for more information!

Advocacy Network

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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.

State of the Land Updates

Pennsylvania Vacant Land Policy in the Context of National Trends

As of March 2022, there are 17 states in the US that have comprehensive state-enabling land bank legislation. Click here to see a map via the Center for Community Progress. Pennsylvania was one of the first few states to adopt such legislation; Michigan in 2004, Ohio in 2009, and New York in 2011 all beat the commonwealth to the punch. Today there are over 250 different land banks operating all around the US from Alaska to Maine. These land banks represent a response to numerous cross-sectional trends across the United States. Many land banks were first formed in “Rust Belt” states that once represented the industrial and manufacturing powerhouse of the United States. From 1910 to 1970 during what was dubbed “The Great Migration” ~6 million “Black people moved from the American South to Northern, Midwestern, and Western states… The driving force behind the mass movement was to escape racial violence, pursue economic and educational opportunities, and obtain freedom from the oppression of Jim Crow.” As it became clear that the industrial needs of the US were slowing a process of deindustrialization took place in which urban areas, particularly dense with Black and brown communities were divested from. These historical and national trends are still felt across Midwestern American cities today.

On the political side of things, Pennsylvania has found itself in the middle of the Urban-Rural divide. As explained by Ezra Klein in his book “Why We’re Polarized” there is an increasing political gap being exposed between the two-party system with Republican voters being highly represented in rural places and Democratic voters being highly represented in urban places. In the 2000 election, Al Gore won the popular vote but only carried ~700 of the United States’ 3,006 counties. In 2012, Obama won a greater share of the vote than Gore but only carried about 600 counties. 4 years later in 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote with less than 500 counties which was 1000 counties less than her husband won 25 years prior. In the most recent election, Joe Biden won the state of Pennsylvania with a majority in only 13 of 67 counties, including 9 of the top 10 most dense counties. Clearly, the division between political power in urban and rural states is growing and vacant land policy is right at the crossroads of it.

To understand the need for land banks and comprehensive state legislation enabling them, one must understand the historical and political context that they underscore. These national trends cannot simply be stopped and it is unlikely they will anytime soon, the best thing we can do is be aware of them and cognizant of their impacts on our lives.


Call To Action

Tell us your land acquisition story! Have you tried to acquire vacant land? Do you want to try to acquire land?  What is your feedback? Tell us your story! Email us

Policy Updates 

Updates from Western Pennsylvania
Westmoreland land bank buys first properties in New Kensington, Arnold
The Westmoreland County Land Bank bought some of its first properties at a judicial sale. The six new properties purchased are from the newly joined cities and school districts of New Kensington and Arnold.

Hearing set for demolition of Fort Pitt Brewery in Jeannette
Jeannette officials will hold a demolition hearing on September 13th to gain a local perspective on if the former Fort Pitt Brewery should remain or be demolished.

Grounded Spotlight- Verna’s Lot

Verna has been a Homewood resident for over 40 years. The Bennet Street lot which lies adjacent to her property has been vacant since the late 1990s. Verna has been caring for the lot since then. Seeking to purchase the property; Verna is currently beginning the process of using the Side Lot Program in order to do so. Hopefully, through this process, Verna will be able to purchase the property from the city. Verna’s dream is to “turn the parcel into a family and community space for the residents along Bennett Street where children can play, we can have plant and seed swaps, and have a place for planting flowers and vegetables.”

What is Grounded Staff
Reading This Month?

A lawsuit could lower thousands of tax bills and threaten Allegheny County’s ‘house of cards’ property assessment system

Additional Resources

Celebrating 15 Years of Grounded

The 15 Years of Grounded campaign celebrates our organization’s founding by highlighting 15 projects that have helped communities and residents find new ways to get outside, relieve stress, and beautify their neighborhoods. Come back daily to see which projects we highlight as we look back at the past 15 years. Help keep us Grounded and donate here.

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