Philadelphia makes buying abandoned property easier

Posted: May 22, 2012

BUYING A CITY-OWNED vacant or abandoned property is about to get a bit easier with a new website that will allow potential buyers to see nearly all city-held properties on a map, with price tags and other information.

Part of a long-awaited effort to create clear policies for dealing with the vacant land and abandoned buildings that blight many neighborhoods, the site will feature 9,000 properties, the bulk of the city’s holdings. It will provide the opportunity to buy properties held by the Redevelopment Authority, the Department of Public Property and the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp., city officials said yesterday. It can be accessed on the Redevelopment Authority’s website.

The administration is calling this effort a single “front door” to acquire public property. Buyers can make online bids, even though the sales will eventually be handled by the different departments. The site is going live Tuesday, although officials stressed that they are doing a soft launch for several weeks and that some data — including prices — isn’t available yet.

A new streamlined land-disposition policy is also in place, which establishes clear rules for selling land to developers, individuals or community groups. But the city is still a ways off from a comprehensive plan for dealing with the more than 40,000 abandoned properties citywide. Only about 25 percent of that land is owned by the city.

“These efforts are not simple,” said John Carpenter, deputy executive director of the Redevelopment Authority.

Advocates are continuing to push the city to create a “land bank” to consolidate all publicly held vacant land and set consistent policies for buying and selling properties.

“It’s an important step forward. That being said, we don’t think it’s enough,” said Rick Sauer, executive director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, of the “front door.”

Legislation that would give the city the power to create a land bank is making its way through the state Legislature. And Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez has introduced a land bank bill at the local level. A spokesman for the mayor said the city was talking with Quinones-Sanchez. n

Contact Catherine Lucey at 215-854-4172 or luceyc@phillynews.Twitter.

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