Like most major cities, Philadelphia is always trying to improve the quality of life for its residents.
But Philadelphia’s 40,000 vacant lots–many of which plague parts of the city where the population has been on the decline for the past few decades like Hunting Park–have been diminishing the quality of life for residents and can even attract crime.
“[The neighborhood] was once Philadelphia’s manufacturing heartland and really saw a decline in jobs and employment and population over the past 50 years,” said Justin DiBerardinis, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez’s legislative aide who helped write her “land bank” bill.
Quiñones-Sánchez, who represents Hunting Park, introduced the bill to create a single, unified Land Bank for the entire city, which would shift the responsibility from the roughly half-dozen city agencies that currently manage vacant land. But some of her constituents are wary about the proposal.
“I’m for a Land Bank, but it has to be done right. If it’s not done right, it could be a disaster,” said Paul Cherashore, a community member. “Usually money and business interests trump neighborhoods, so you always have to be on the lookout for that.”
Michael Head, another community member, agreed that he supports a land bank, but he’s cautious about blindly trusting any bill. “We need to give something to the people to develop local economies, so people who live in the neighborhood want to stay in the neighborhood,” Head said.
After many of Hunting Park’s manufacturing jobs were sent overseas during the last few decades, which forced residents to move out to find other work, parts of Hunting Park became abandoned and soon fell into disrepair. A land bank would allow people to buy vacant land or abandoned properties much faster and easier than the current system. It’s also City Council’s hope that vacant areas will attract an increase in economic activity and revitalize the neighborhoods.
The City Council is expected to vote on the bill before it recesses for summer.
–The article has been updated to correct the spelling of Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. We apologize for the error.