Pittsburgh’s land bank will complete a sale of three Hazelwood properties Tuesday, continuing its recent momentum.
Hazelwood Initiative, a community development corporation, will own a trio of adjoining properties along the 300 block of Flowers Avenue and plans to construct an affordable home on each of them. A groundbreaking is expected by the end of October.
David Brewton, the nonprofit’s real estate director, told the Union Progress that the project fits into a larger neighborhood goal of development without displacement, with potential ripple effects looming from the Hazelwood Green site.
“When they begin to develop the housing down there, values up here are going to go way up, which has real potential to displace low-income homeowners, and we want to make sure that that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Brewton, who stressed at the land bank’s December board meeting that “funding is not going to wait” through yearslong bureaucratic processes, added that he thinks the land bank needs additional legal resources dedicated to clearing old tax liabilities from properties. State law shortens the sometimes lengthy process, known as clearing or quieting title, for land banks.
“We hope that City Council will provide the resources that the land bank needs so that it can start fulfilling its mission,” he said. “It’s really not rocket science.”
The land bank is designed to acquire vacant or abandoned properties and clear tax liabilities, then get them back on the open market for community-minded redevelopment. It hasn’t gotten much done since first being established in 2014 but recently has begun picking up steam. A new leader took over late last year, and the agency earlier this summer completed its first and second property sales.
Sally Stadelman, the land bank manager, told the Union Progress that the Hazelwood project was very “exciting” and laid out a blueprint that other affordable housing developments could follow.
“It’s important to have a consistent, predictable process to move that land from vacant and tax delinquent into the hands of a [community development corporation] or a nonprofit who can complete that work,” she said.
The agency notched a key win earlier this month after Pittsburgh City Council unanimously voted to authorize a contract among the land bank, the city and the Urban Redevelopment Authority establishing a standardized process for transferring government-owned property. But it still needs that contract to take effect, as well as two other tools in order to be fully up and running: a contract among itself, the city, the county and the city school district on how to resolve old tax liabilities; and access to millions in federal COVID-19 relief dollars already allocated to it by the city.