VPWG Land Bank and Pittsburgh Property Reserve Advocacy Charge

5 Apr

Following the passage of the statewide legislation in 2012, the City of Pittsburgh, community organizations, community development corporations and land bank advocates worked to create the City of Pittsburgh’s Land Bank Ordinance, which was enacted in 2014. The legislation was intended to create a citywide land bank that would return blighted, tax delinquent property to the tax rolls, at scale. The implementation of this mission has been a slow time coming. The Land Bank hired its first full time staff and closed on its first property in early 2019, nearly 5 years after the passing of the City Ordinance.

For over the last 20 years, Pittsburgh based Community Groups’ primary way of obtaining tax delinquent properties is through the Pittsburgh Property Reserve, a process in which the City obtains tax delinquent properties and clears title before transferring the property to Community Groups for a discounted rate. The process provides affordability for cash strapped groups, but has multiple issues- including the time it takes to receive properties out of the Reserve, as well as providing no protection for community identified properties during the Treasurer Sale process (a process in which the public can purchase city tax liens and obtain delinquent properties/vacant lots). Community Groups often have to fight off private speculators/flippers for the properties that they have earmarked for community needs.

The Land Bank has the statutory tools in its arsenal to combat these ills, including the ability to recycle land more expediently and outbid speculators with a “priority bid” at Sherriff’s Sales (a judicial tax collection sale). The Land Bank has recently reached out to Community Groups to assist in obtaining tax delinquent land on their behalf, which is a positive step for community development. However, this does not necessarily mean that Land acquisition for Community Groups has turned the metaphorical corner. Funding for the Land Bank was not included in this year’s City budget. The Land Bank is currently functioning off of last year’s appropriations, as well as grant dollars. The Land Bank will need additional capitalization in the future if it plans to recycle property at the scale needed in Pittsburgh- which has one of the nation’s oldest housing stocks. The Property Reserve will also need to be updated to address its inherent flaws. Land Bank pricing for Community Group properties is still being determined, and could be more expensive than the traditional Property Reserve discount pricing. This could make the traditional Property Reserve a necessity for some lower capacity Community Groups, who will rely on the discounted price. Sherriff sales in particular have high administrative costs, which could price Community Groups out of using the sale and limit the use of the priority bid.

In the near future, the Land Bank will be forming an advisory committee to address the issues with the Property Reserve. The committee will consist of multiple community stakeholders, including representatives from VPWG. In March 2019, VPWG discussed what Community Groups would like to see in an updated Property Reserve, as well as what is needed for the Land Bank to fulfill its mission. Below is the policy charge that was formed using input from this meeting. PCRG hopes to use this policy charge to advocate for changes that will make the repurposing of land easier and more efficient for Community Groups.



Please see the below policy charge for the Pittsburgh Land Bank and Pittsburgh Property Reserve: