State of the Land Report: July 2022

Welcome to the State of the Land Report!
July 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!

Webster & Hollace Community Care Project at the corner of Webster Avenue and Hollace Street. See Grounded Project Highlights 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

Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia
A Comparative of Vacant Land in Pennsylvania’s Largest Cities

Pittsburgh is home to approximately 300,000 residents, just a fraction of Philadelphia’s near 1.6 million inhabitants (1). The City of Philadelphia owns about 6,000 of the nearly 40,000 vacant properties within city limits (2). In comparison, the City of Pittsburgh has 14,000 vacant properties under its control (3). This means that for every 100,000 residents in Philadelphia there are 375 vacant lots under the city’s control, in contrast in Pittsburgh that number is a staggering 4,666 vacant lots per 100,000 residents. The reason for the difference? Policy. The City of Philadelphia has prioritized the transfer of properties to their land bank to be put up for sale encouraging the development of these lots. In October of 2012 former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed HB 1682, known as the Land Bank Act, into law. Under this legislation, municipalities were given the authority to create land banks, local entities “that can hold and manage vacant properties and direct their reuse and redevelopment. Land banks make it easier and cheaper for prospective buyers to redevelop blighted properties into homes and businesses, ultimately reversing cycles of economic decline and getting delinquent properties back on municipal tax rolls” (4). While there is still plenty of room to grow on the racial equality front with whom these properties are sold, the City of Philadelphia is moving in the right direction. On the other hand, in Pittsburgh, the City Council has stymied efforts to streamline the transfer of the 14,000 properties to the Pittsburgh Land Bank which the Urban Redevelopment Authority now oversees. Pittsburgh city council members expressed concerns that there would not be any oversight and have put an amendment streamlining the process on hold since the beginning of June. A bill passed earlier this summer designed to bring some of the success that Philadelphia’s land bank has seen to Pittsburgh; however, due to the city council, little progress has been made. As of July 2022, “Pittsburgh’s land bank has only overseen two properties since its inception in 2014 and only has one property listed on its website. For comparison, Philadelphia’s land bank averaged seven transactions per month in 2020, Philadelphia Public Radio station WHYY reported” (5). This snail-like pace of governance has led other groups to believe they can achieve more, faster. A group of Wilkinsburg residents has presented a proposed ordinance to the borough council in hopes of starting their own land bank seeking to avoid the red tape and inaction by the Pittsburgh Land Bank and similar organizations (6). Until the Pittsburgh city council chooses to make the vacant land policy a priority, thousands of vacant lots will lay dormant placing an undue burden on local residents and taxpayers.

(1) 10 Largest Cities in Pennsylvania

(2) Vacant Lot Program | City of Philadelphia

(3) Pittsburgh City Council holds land bank legislation with concerns their oversight is being removed, among others

(4) Pennsylvania Governor signs Land Bank Act in to law

(5) Pittsburgh’s ineffective land bank could cut through red tape under Pa. Senate bill

(6) A Wilkinsburg group is starting a land bank, hoping for better results than Pittsburgh

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 of Pittsburgh Highlights

A Wilkinsburg group is starting a land bank, hoping for better results than Pittsburgh

Hoping to achieve what the Pittsburgh Land Bank has been unable to do, Wilkinsburg residents are hoping to start their own land bank to handle the abandoned properties in their community.

State of Pennsylvania Updates

Bipartisan Pa. legislation would provide home repair grants, loans for homeowners, small landlords

The legislation establishes the Whole-Home Repairs program. Under the program, homeowners would be eligible for grants of up to $50,000 to cover the costs of home repairs. In addition, landlords would be able to take out loans up to $50,000 per unit with a maximum of five properties.

Grounded Projects- Webster & Hollace

Latoya Kinsel, Brenda Toley, Eugenia Boggus, Roy Whiting, Rob Thomas, Nicole Bell, Lamar Williams
Located at the corner of Webster Avenue and Hollace Street this project is designed to be a place for play and gathering. The site is the focus of a lot of improvement in 2022. Grounded has added shrubs like black chokeberry and elderberry to the grounds. We also included borage, calendula, squash, dill, amaranth, okra, daylilies, and several other desirable species on site. Edible species have been a focus for the season. In addition, as a means to fill the long-time request of the Stewards, a shade structure, seating improvements, and a horseshoe pit are all in development.

What is Grounded Staff
Reading This Month?

How Generations of Black Americans Lost Their Land to Tax Liens

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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