State of the Land Report: February

Welcome to the State of the Land Report!
February 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! 

Rise-n-Shine Garden - Marlboro Street, Wilkinsburg PA
Rise-n-Shine Garden – Marlboro Street, Wilkinsburg PA

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

Property Tax Disparities in Pittsburgh, PA

Property Tax Disparities in Pittsburgh, PA website:

“This website aims to make public the inequities within Pittsburgh’s property tax system. The findings it presents are the results of Sed Valorem, a project by Artist Harrison Kinnane Smith and Data Analyst Jordan B. Abbott. The Pittsburgh Property Tax Disparities website was created in collaboration with Urban Technologist Claire Gorman”.

The artworks of Sed Valorem will be on display at the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh’s contemporary, installation-based art museum, through April 10, 2022.

“The majority of U.S. municipalities chronically overtax non-white homeowners and low-value homes. We analyzed Allegheny County assessment and real estate data from 2012-2020 to reveal that during these years, the county assessed Pittsburgh’s lowest value homes at twice their same-year market value, while the highest value homes were assessed at just over half their market value. We also found that Pittsburgh’s black homes were assessed at 7.5% more, on average, than comparable white homes”

Learn about the trends of property taxation in your neighborhood.

For more information about this project and property taxation in Pittsburgh, have a look at their About Page. You can also download a pdf of the full City of Pittsburgh Property Tax Regressivity and Racial Inequality: 2012-2020 Report.

Seeking Solutions: Blight and Vacant in Wilkinsburg

“Throughout the past year, the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) has worked with the community to create Seeking Solutions: Blight & Vacancy in Wilkinsburg, a comprehensive report on the status of vacancy across the borough”.

“One of the biggest issues facing Wilkinsburg is vacant property and blight. Nearly 20 percent, close to 900 parcels, of Wilkinsburg’s houses and commercial buildings, are vacant and/or blighted”

Read the full report and visit the Wilkinsburg CDC website here!

News Updates

What led an Ohio woman to camp in a Coraopolis house sought by an East Liberty development group? Conservatorship gone awry. 

One woman’s bid to own a home turned into a conservatorship case and a legal quagmire that pits her against one of Pittsburgh’s leading development groups.

Conservatorship is a legal mechanism created by a 2008 state law under which a would-be steward can take control of a vacant and blighted property and repair it so it no longer harms the community. However, for months, Bowers has been involved in a tug-of-war with ELDI over the property. Its contested status has rendered her unable to buy a home in Ohio and worried about the mounting debts attached to the property.

Port Authority receives grant to plan possible development around proposed East Busway extension

Port Authority has received a $565,500 federal grant to begin planning for transit-oriented development in Braddock, North Braddock, and East Pittsburgh after the extension occurs.

The busway currently extends from Downtown Pittsburgh through the Strip District, East Liberty, Homewood, and Wilkinsburg to the Swissvale-Rankin border, and Port Authority’s long-range plan calls for extending it through Braddock and North Braddock to East Pittsburgh. The authority’s long-range plan, called NEXTransit, lists extending the busway as one of the agency’s top priorities.

Report recommends zoning policy that would mandate more affordable housing in Pittsburgh

A new report says Pittsburgh’s housing market is strong enough to support citywide inclusionary zoning – a policy requiring developers of new housing to set aside a portion of units as affordable housing.

The report is authored by Bob Damewood, a senior staff attorney at Regional Housing Legal Services, and is an update of an earlier report from 2015. Read the full report: “Building Inclusive Communities Report on Inclusionary Zoning Updated with New Information” here.

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

City Council Meeting Highlights

Pittsburgh City Council votes down Wilkinsburg annexation, for now

Pittsburgh City Council voted against annexing neighboring Wilkinsburg, but council members will continue investigating the possibility of doing so in the future. The proposed annexation was voted down 7-2, with Councilmen Anthony Coghill and Corey O’Connor voting in favor of it.

Pittsburgh City Council approves appointments for city solicitor and public safety director

Pittsburgh City Council approved Mayor Ed Gainey’s appointments for city solicitor and public safety director.

  • Krysia Kubiak, who previously served as director of state regulatory strategy and government affairs for Duquesne Light Company, will serve as the city solicitor.
  • Lee Schmidt, who has served in other roles in the department and has a background as a paramedic, will become the city’s public safety director.

City of Pittsburgh Updates

Mayor Ed Gainey Announces Appointments for Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh

On Feb 7, Mayor Ed Gainey announced his appointments to the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA). Chief economic development officer Kyle Chintalapalli and State Representative Sara Innamorato were selected as the Mayor’s appointees.

Mayor Gainey’s Transition Team Announces Community Forums and Online Engagement Portal

On Feb 7, Mayor Ed Gainey’s transition organization announced a series of community meetings, an online engagement portal, and a resident input message center that will allow residents to provide input to help guide the work and policy recommendations of the transition committees

  • Equitable Development – Monday, February 21, 2022, at 6:00 pm
  • Education & Workforce Development – Wednesday, February 23, 2022, at 6:00 pm
  • Community Health and Safety – Monday, February 28, 2022, at 6:00 pm
  • Infrastructure and Environment – Wednesday, March 2, 2022, at 6:00 pm


Steward Spotlight –
Talking Lots with Marita Garrett

Talking Lots is a podcast series that explores the issue of vacant lots in the Pittsburgh region. We present stories of vacant land restoration and activation as told through the voices of residents, community leaders, partners, and officials. Vacant lots are often overlooked but these stories prove that beautiful things can happen when we take care of the land that surrounds us.

In the fifth episode, we speak with Marita Garrett, the first Black woman elected mayor of the city of Wilkinsburg and founder of Civically Inc. She brings a macro and micro perspective on dealing with land vacancies at scale. Her background as an elected official and advocate of city and community engagement offers a unique conversation on community transformation.

Listen to the full podcast below or here

Additional Resources

PWSA Ambassador Cohort 2 Recruitment

Grounded is currently seeking paid residents to support outreach and community engagement activities for the PWSA Stormwater Strategic Plan in the following watersheds/neighborhoods:

Woods Run (Brightwood, Brighton Heights, Observatory Hill, & Perry Hill Top); Saw Mill Run (Allentown, Banksville, Beechview, Beltzhoover, Bon Air, Brookline, Carrick, Duquesne Heights, Knoxville, Mount Washington, Overbrook, and Ridgemont); Homewood; Larimer; Sheraden; and Hazelwood

Learn more about the program or apply here: 

If you haven’t already, check out our previous State of the Land Reports:

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