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Economy & Business
Keystone Crossroads: Rust or Revival? explores the urgent challenges pressing upon Pennsylvania's cities. Four public media newsrooms are collaborating to report in depth on the root causes of our state's urban crisis -- and on possible solutions. Keystone Crossroads offers reports on radio, web, social media, television and newspapers, and through public events.Our partner stations are WHYY in Philadelphia, WPSU in State College and witf in Harrisburg. Read all of the partner stories here.Pittsburgh’s WQED joins the collaboration as an associate partner. Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Two Largest Land Banks In Pennsylvania Have Been Slow Getting Off The Ground

Jared Brey
Vacant lots on the 2100 block of North 9th Street in Philadelphia, near Temple University. Eighty percent of the block's properties are tax delinquent.

There are some neighborhoods in Pennsylvania cities where half of the properties are blighted or tax-delinquent or both. Between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, there are about 60,000 such properties. But getting them into the hands of new owners who can make them useful for the neighborhood again has been difficult. Enter a 2012 state law that allows cities to quickly acquire properties, eliminate back taxes and get them to new owners. But in reality, there has been little progress.


The Pittsburgh Land Bank’s full board met for the first time on a late-summer afternoon in August. Councilman Ricky Burgess, chairman of the board, called it a historic moment and applause echoed in the tall-ceilinged Council chambers as he called the meeting to order.

They have their work cut out for them.

The interim board, named in April 2014, when the mayor signed the ordinance creating a Pittsburgh land bank into law, was supposed to have already drafted policies and procedures. They were also supposed to have come up with a strategic plan by April 2015. Neither of those things has happened.

This is part two in a series on waterfront development statewide. Read more of this report at the website of our partner Keystone Crossroads.