Wading into Philly’s vacant land morass

Philadelphia has around 40,000 vacant lots, varying in type from small side yards to massive former industrial sites. Most of them—around three quarters—are privately owned, according to the city. But of those, some portion are tax-delinquent, eligible to be bought at a sheriff’s sale or obtained by the Philadelphia Land Bank, which is supposed to help put the city’s vacant lots back to use in various ways: Community gardens, new homes and apartments, commercial development.

A vacant lot between rowhouses in Philadelphia
A lot in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, Philadelphia. (Photo: Katie Levesque)

For The Women’s Community Revitalization Project, which builds affordable housing using federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, it’s not always easy to find the best properties to pursue. Not only is the Land Bank slow-moving, but getting basic information about available properties can be a challenge.

This semester, the Women’s Community Revitalization Project is working with four students in the Stuart Weitzman School’s Department of City and Regional Planning who are completing their capstone practicum in Community and Economic Development. 

Professor Lisa Servon, who teaches the course and also chairs the department, emphasizes how important it is for students to work directly with clients.  

“The real world is messy,” she says. “These students get a real understanding of what it means to be a decision maker.” 

The students are also working with the City of Philadelphia Department of Planning and Development to create a “community developer toolkit,” and assembling adequate data to vet a suitable vacant property to develop.

Read more at PennDesign News.