Pittsburgh Land Bank Approved—With Compromises

Pittsburgh recently approved a land bank to acquire properties when owners fall behind on property taxes. The question about how much control to grant an independent authority, or maintain with the City Council, remains controversial.
April 17, 2014, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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“Pittsburgh City Council on Monday voted to create the Pittsburgh Land Bank, the culmination of weeks of rancorous debate and compromise,” reports Moriah Balingit. “The land bank, like the city, will be empowered to acquire land when owners fall more than a year behind on property taxes.”

As with most issues of blight and property rights, the issue was controversial: “Proponents called it a useful tool to ameliorate blight and speed the disposition of city land. But others worried about giving an independent body authority over city land sales.” 

To address some of the controversy, “[the City Council] struck a compromise last week with a series of amendments that would keep city council's oversight of land sales for at least two years. It also added additional protections for owner-occupied properties, expanded opportunities for community input, and expanded the board to allow the three council members with the most vacant land a greater say in who served on it.”

Writing in a follow up to the council’s vote, Alex Zimmerman quotes experts who ask if the compromise of granting the City Council more oversight will undercut the power of the land bank to achieve its intended goals, citing examples from Cleveland’s original, failed land bank experience.

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Published on Monday, April 14, 2014 in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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