Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez introduced legislation Thursday that would better control vacant city-owned land and make it easier for the city to sell. Urban decay often results due to vacant land, which is a problem especially prevalent in Hunting Park, which partly sits in the fifth councilmanic district, which Quiñones-Sánchez represents.
Walking along crumbled sidewalks and scattered vacant lots on the 4000 block of North 13th Street in Hunting Park, it’s clear this bill is needed, said resident Constance Morrow.
“It’s really disgusting, it takes me back to the 1960s,” Morrow said. “When I walk outside, all I see is a bunch of trash bags, vacant lands and old houses. And no one’s responsible for it.”
The bill would streamline the city’s ability to sell city-owned vacant land. Morrow said that would do a lot to improve neighborhoods in the city.
“It would bring the unity back, maybe stop some of the violence. It gives us a chance,” Morrow said.
Marcus Presley, who works with the Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land, said the bill does a lot of good “in spirit,” but that it lacks specificity.
“We want a bill that ensures long-term affordability,” regarding low-cost housing, Presley said. “The most important thing is making sure community input is really, really considered when it comes to how land is given out by the city.”
He added that a centralized land bank can respond to the community more efficiently than the current process, which lacks a single office that is accountable for the city-owned vacant land. A land bank, said Presley, would make the city more accountable.