State of the Land Report: January Posted on January 28, 2022 by Gracie Brickner Share this post Welcome to the State of the Land Report! January 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! Advocacy Network Thank you for subscribing to our advocacy network, if you have not already done so please subscribe here. We must ensure that the process of land recycling and maintenance is conducted equitably, transparently, and through an anti-racist framework. Help lobby for changes in local, state, and federal land-use policies, voice your concerns about vacant land in your community and how you want to see it developed, and support your neighbors in obtaining land access and ownership. State of the Land Updates Stewardship First Campaign Site Audit Report Last month we released our Stewardship First Campaign Site Audit Report. From 2020 to 2021, Grounded Strategies conducted our Stewardship First Campaign. As a part of this campaign, we worked to build an understanding of the physical condition and use levels of past Grounded projects. Of our total 121 existing projects, our team was able to assess 68 projects. We assessed them utilizing 4 different site condition factors including hardscapes, softscapes, water management, and beautification. From this report, we also identified areas of greater need for ongoing maintenance support, and evaluated the success of stewardship strategies of our different program models. Read the full report: here! News Updates Restoring Pittsburgh’s Vacant Land to Use just Got a Little Bit Easier The Pittsburgh Land Bank (PLB) and Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) have created a process to clear unpaid water and sewage bills. The agreement should make it easier to get more properties in the pipeline to be transferred to new users. This will greatly help the PLB in making vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties available for development. Read the full WESA Article: here Pittsburgh Land Bank Officials say 2022 is Going to be a Big Year Pittsburgh Land Bank officials say 2022 is going to be a big year. “Their end-of-year report struck an unusual note of optimism as it touted the land bank’s progress since last January: A new, full-time manager; its status as an affiliate entity of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which brings access to that agency’s resources; and a plan for progress next year”. Read the full WESA article: here Steady Rise in Eviction Filings Shows Stresses in the Pittsburgh-Area Rental Market Eviction filings in Allegheny County rose in November and December after the expiration of pandemic-driven curbs, bringing 2021’s total number of landlord-tenant cases to more than 5,800. Read the Public Source article: here Call To Action Spread the word! Share the State of the Land Report with someone you know, a friend, family, neighbor, or coworker Share the State of the Land Report on social media. Tag us! Sign up for our Advocacy Network! Sign up here! 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! Email us Policy@groundedpgh.org Policy Updates City Council Meeting Highlights City Council approved a measure to designate six former greenways to the Pittsburgh park system. The new parks are; Bigelow Park, Fairhaven Park, Hazelwood Park, Knoxville Incline Park, Moore Park, and Seldom Seen Park. This encompasses over 300 acres and are in many neighborhoods, including Allentown, Beechview, Brookline, Glen Hazel, Greenfield, Hazelwood, the Hill District, Mt. Washington, Overbrook, Polish Hill, and the South Side Slopes. On Tuesday, Jan 4, Judge Joseph James ruled that the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation collected enough signatures and ordered Pittsburgh City Council to consider the annexation of Wilkinsburg into the City of Pittsburgh. City Council now has 90 days to vote to consent to or disapprove of the annexation. If councilors vote against the annexation, the process ends. If they vote to consent, the matter returns to court, where a referendum date will be set. Then, Wilkinsburg voters will weigh in. State Policy Updates WESA released the article “Pittsburgh ‘mimics’ a functioning land bank, but needs help to be effective”. It overviews pieces of legislation intended that are stuck in committee in Harrisburg. The first is Senate Bill 811 (SB811). This is an amendment to Municipal Claim and Tax Lien Law, or MCTLL that would allow Pittsburgh and other municipalities in Allegheny County, to use the more streamlined process that’s already in effect in Philadelphia. The second is House Bill 610 (HB610). This would shield Pennsylvania land banks from environmental liability on small, neighborhood-scale sites that used to be gas stations or dry cleaners. That would allow them to hold the land without incurring massive costs, as they work with future developers on a plan to remediate the site Federal Policy UpdatesThe Department of Treasury released the final rule of ARPA funding utilization stating that “ARPA funds may be used by communities to address vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties in multiple ways”. The Final Rule authorizes services to address vacant or abandoned properties as eligible expenditures in areas disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, stating, “Treasury agrees with commenters that high rates of vacant or abandoned properties in a neighborhood may exacerbate public health disparities”. “Eligible activities include costs related to rehabilitation, renovation, and securing of vacant or abandoned properties; remediation of environmental hazards; demolition or deconstruction of vacant or abandoned buildings; greening of vacant lots; conversion of properties to affordable housing, and more”Read more from the Center for Community Progress: “ARPA Final Rule Recognizes That Addressing Vacancy and Abandonment Makes Communities Stronger, Healthier, and More Equitable” 311 Reports 311 reports tend to decrease in the winter months. Read our previous reports for 311 information and check back in the upcoming months for updates. 311 reports broken down by the City Council Districts – Oct SOTLR 311 reports broken down by request type – Nov SOTLR About 311 and the city’s data tracking systems – Dec SOTLR Steward Spotlight – Talking Lots with Felix Fusco 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 fourth episode, we speak with Felix Fusco, a ReClaim Clairton Ambassador. He discusses his vacant lot transformation and how his garden brings community healing with an outlet for community expression. Felix explains how there is so much potential with vacant lots and buildings to benefit the community with gardens, environmental education sites, safe places for children, and so much more. Listen to the full podcast here. Additional Resources Check out Grounded’s 2020 Annual Report The City of Pittsburgh released Dashburgh. This is data about how the City of Pittsburgh is serving its residents. Dashburgh draws on data from 32 data sources across the City’s portfolio of activity. This includes sharing data on 311 Service Requests, Administration, Equity, Finances, Neighborhood Development, Operations, Public Safety, Sustainability, and Resilience. The Center for Community Progress’ Community Revitalization Fellowship. This is a learning opportunity to help grassroots community leaders revitalize neighborhoods that are struggling with serious challenges related to vacancy, abandonment, and disinvestment. Applications are due by Friday, February 25, 2022. We’re hiring! Communications Manager (Shared) Design and Placemaking Mentor Design and Placemaking Intern Land Stewardship Innovation Project Manager Check out our previous State of the Land Reports: October State of the Land Report November State of the Land Report December State of the Land Report Don’t forget to sign up for our advocacy network!