So much happens in the background that impacts on the ground work. This section talks about a few broader land use policies and efforts happening in the community and how they impact work at the microscale.

Land Bank

A land bank is a public authority created to efficiently handle acquisition, maintenance, and sale of vacant properties. Land banks have clear streamlined procedures to clear title, transfer properties to responsible owners, and acquire tax delinquent properties without risking their sale to speculators. Land banks are a best practice that more than 75 governments have adopted, including Cleveland, Louisville, Atlanta, and Genesee County, MI.

Why do we need a land bank?

Vacant land is harming our neighborhoods and costing the City, School District, residents and businesses tens of millions of dollars each year. Available land should be one of a community’s greatest assets, but that is often prevented by a broken vacant land management system. Ownership of 20,000+ vacant properties is shared by multiple agencies, each with a different, long and confusing sales procedure as well as numerous absent private owners.

How will a land bank benefit us?

A land bank will support the revitalization of communities by making it faster, easier and cheaper for neighbors, builders, community groups and investors to return vacant land to productive reuse. At the same time, a land bank will make it harder for speculators to gain ownership of vacant land. A land bank also will encourage owners to pay taxes and maintain their vacant property under threat of foreclosure.

What are the key tenants of land banking?

  • Strategic links to the tax collection and foreclosure process
  • Operations scaled in response to local land use goals
  • Policy-driven, transparent, and publicly accountable transactions
  • Engagement with residents and other community stakeholders
  • Alignment with other local or regional tools and community programs

What is Pittsburgh’s Land Bank Mission?

To return unproductive real estate to beneficial reuse through an equitable, transparent, public process, thereby revitalizing neighborhoods in line with community goals and needs. The Land Bank is intended to serve as the depository for unused, inactive real estate held in the names of public entities. The Land Bank shall strive to support socially and economically diverse communities and strengthen the City’s tax base.

To stay up to date with the City of Pittsburgh’s Land Bank Authority and more general information about land banking including Frequently Asked Questions, click here.

Read the Pittsburgh Land Bank Bill by clicking here. Read the current draft of the Pittsburgh Land Bank Policies and Procedures by clicking here.

Community Land Trust

A Community Land Trust is a nonprofit, community-based corporation with a place-based membership, a democratically elected board, and a charitable commitment to the use and stewardship of land on behalf of the local population. CLTs typically retain permanent ownership of land and lease it to individuals or organizations that own the improvements upon the land, such as residences, commercial buildings, and agricultural or recreational facilities. The CLT model offers a way to retain ownership of land stewarded by and for the community, so that the highest or best use of property can remain community-defined, community-controlled, and adaptable to changing conditions. (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, April 2014)

Although CLTs have focused on the development and stewardship of affordable housing 
in recent decades, they are beginning to diversify in models to own and maintain vacant land for other uses such as farming, commercial, etc.

In 2014, a group of representatives from various land management and community development agencies, called the Community Land Trust Exploratory Committee, formed to study the feasibility of creating a CLT model for Allegheny County. The working group consisted of representatives from PCRG, Grounded, Grow Pittsburgh, Allegheny Land Trust, Lawrenceville Corp., Kingsley Association, Homewood Consensus Group, Larimer Consensus Group, ARTEZ and more.

The exploratory committee assessed the feasibility of creating and sustaining a regional CLT strategy and identified the core business planning assumptions under which the CLT initiative would be established and operated. The exploratory committee concluded that a regional CLT would serve the communities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County well and if funding becomes available, then a regional CLT should be pursued.

While work continues on establishing a regional CLT, numerous neighborhood CLT efforts are being pursued across Pittsburgh; including Garfield, the Hill District, and Lawrenceville. The Lawrenceville Community Land Trust broke ground on the first CLT homes in Western Pennsylvania in July 2017.

For more information on Community Land Trusts, check out the following resources:

Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Article

Community-Wealth.Org Community Land Trust Overview

National Community Land Trust Network Website

Shareable.Net Blog on Starting a Community Land Trust

Consent Decree

In the case of ALCOSAN, the Consent Decree is an agreement between the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) for ALCOSAN to achieve compliance with the Clean Water Act during periods of wet weather. The Consent Decree is a binding, legal document that is certified by a federal judge and therefore recognized by the court.

To comply with the Consent Decree, ALCOSAN must meet a series of requirements for planning, design and construction, operation and permitting. These requirements include the following two steps to ensure the project is in compliance with the Consent Decree:

  • For the sanitary sewer system (SSO), ALCOSAN will design and construct conveyance, storage, and treatment facilities that eliminate all sanitary sewer overflows, while also capturing and treating flows equal to all of the sanitary sewer system flow that is generated in the regional collection system.
  • For the combined sewer system (CSO), ALCOSAN has two design and construction options: The first option provides for the design and construction of conveyance, storage, and treatment facilities that capture and treat all peak dry-weather flow in the regional collection system and all wet-weather flow in the regional combined sewer system. The second option allows ALCOSAN to treat all peak dry-weather flow while capturing at least 85 percent of all combined sewer system flow and treating all wet-weather flow with the best practicable technology.

The Consent Decree requires a comprehensive regional planning effort unlike anything ALCOSAN has undertaken in the past, and ALCOSAN’s draft Wet Weather Plan represents the largest public works project ever completed in Allegheny County.

For more information on the draft Plan please refer to ALCOSAN’s  Wet Weather Plan and Wet Weather Decree

Consent Decree Document