Who owns vacant land?

Have you ever wondered who actually owns all of the vacant land around Pittsburgh? If so, then we have some answers for you! First, take a look at the map below to get a visual sense of the magnitude of vacancy in the City. The map marks vacant lots by owner, including the two largest land owners in Pittsburgh – the City of Pittsburgh, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and private owners. You can click on the map for a larger, zoom-able image.

Pittsburgh Open Space

Ok, so you’ve checked out the map for a good visualization of vacant lots in the city. But where did they all come from? In the second half of the 20th century as the steel industry began to collapse, Pittsburghers left the city. People began flocking to the suburbs where the air and land was cleaner, and family sizes shrunk. Homes were abandoned, and were eventually demolished as they fell into disrepair. What was left behind is the legacy of Pittsburgh’s staggering population decline – vacant land. Pittsburgh has a whopping 28,000 vacant lots. Those lots have a variety of owners. 26% are owned by the City of Pittsburgh. That’s 7271 lots. Another 5% are owned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. There are several other public entities that own a significant number of lots, like the Port Authority, the Housing Authority, Pittsburgh Public Schools and Allegheny County. The remaining lots, some 18,000, are owned by individuals, churches, community organizations, businesses and other groups.

When walking by a vacant lot, there’s no way to tell who owns it just by looking at it. However, there are some good online resources out there where you can learn about the owner.

  • Lots to Love – When you visit Lots to Love, you’ll see a map of Allegheny County. If you select the “Vacant Properties” check box under “Base Layers”, you’ll see all of the vacant lots on the map turn gray. Drag and zoom the map until you’ve reached the vacant lot you’re interested in. Click on it, and a box will pop up on the right side of the screen with information about the owner, tax status, and parcel ID.
  • Allegheny County Real Estate Portal – If you don’t know the address or parcel ID for the vacant lot you’re interested in, type in a nearby address, click the map tab, and then search the map for the vacant lot. You’ll see the parcel ID written there. Go back to the search page, type in the parcel ID, and you’ll be able to see information about the lot owner, whether or not the taxes are paid, the size of the lot, and several other pieces of information.


Lots to Love is also a great resource if you are curiousLots to Love Badge how to go about getting permission to use a vacant lot or purchase a vacant lot. We can’t help making a shameless plug for Lots to Love because we love it so much. Anyway, there’s a page on the site which will help you navigate the process of accessing a lot, acquiring a lot and getting approval for the activities you have planned for a lot. Here’s a link to that page: www.lotstolove.org/your-lot/get-permission

After reading this blog, if you have any other questions about ownership of vacant land, feel free to leave a comment below.


4 thoughts on “Who owns vacant land?

  1. Would you know why they remove the house number from the online Allegheny County real estate record when the house is torn down?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.