Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pittsburgh City Council finally gives land bank a boost

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

An effort to streamline how the City of Pittsburgh, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Pittsburgh Land Bank move land between them won council approval Tuesday. Work to advance a rewrite of the Tri-Party Cooperation Agreement has taken more than a year.

After a few months of inactivity on the issue, councilors have had a flurry of meetings and briefings on the subject since December. In recent weeks, two key issues spurred heated debate: the level of council control and the level of public transparency.

On Tuesday, members dropped an earlier proposal that would have given council the power to review and reauthorize the agreement every two years. But they voted to keep conditions that mandated regular reporting, set a goal to increase land sales for affordable housing, and created a space for council oversight.

Councilor Deb Gross said the changes allow the public and council to remain informed.

“As the land bank comes into its own and is doing dispositions … we will all be able to have eyes on its progress.”

Councilor Bruce Kraus said everyone got some of what they needed.

“We find the magic in the art of compromise,” he said. “We did good.”

WESA Inbox Edition Newsletter

Interested in development and transportation around the region? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you Pittsburgh's top news, every weekday morning.

Under the current cooperation agreement, created in 2019, the land bank is a sort of junior member: It’s unable to request land directly from the URA or the city, instead having to do so through a council member. The proposed changes included doing away with that requirement, a change which concerned several councilors.

With the changes adopted Tuesday, the land bank and the URA will be able to request city-owned land, but moving it will require council approval.

Last month, numerous land bank supporters testified before city council and asked them to advance the tri-party agreement process. Without a new agreement, they said the land bank would continue to be unable to use the special advantages it enjoys under state law to quickly clean up legal issues on vacant land and return it to communities.

Tuesday’s unanimous approval comes just days before council’s August recess. The bill’s passage means the city’s finance director can begin to negotiate the new agreement.