Land Vacancy and Spatial Distribution in Philadelphia
Updated: Oct 7, 2022
Philadelphia activists at the Cesar Andreú Iglesias Community Garden protesting the Sheriff's Office online land auctions.
Of the estimated 42,100 vacant properties citywide, only about 8,500 (or 20%) are publicly-owned, held by one of the City’s four landholding entities, not including the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Of those, 6,311 are surplus properties available for disposition or on
hold for a future development project. The other 2,200 are being managed by the City. The Philadelphia Land Bank holds 2,338 properties. 2,006 of the Land Bank’s current holdings came from the City’s historic inventory of surplus property; 463 were acquired strategically by
the Land Bank at Sheriff’s Sale.6 At present, 2,196 of the Land Bank's properties are available for disposition or on hold for a future development. The Land Bank's holdings comprise 35% of the City’s inventory of surplus property. The Department of Public Property still holds 48% of the public inventory of surplus vacant land. The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority holds 16%, and the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation holds 1%. Of the City’s inventory of publicly-owned surplus property, 95%, or roughly 6,000 properties, are vacant lots. The remaining 5%, or roughly 300 properties, host a vacant structure (PLB, 2019).
While vacant properties can be found across various industrial, commercial, and residential sites in Philadelphia, most are concentrated in neighborhoods to the north and west of the traditional downtown, rather than across the whole city. Fig. 1 shows the block by block percentages of properties (buildings and lots) in each block considered likely to be vacant buildings and land by the city's Vacant Property Indicators Model. The districts with the largest amounts of combined properties are located in the North, Lower North, Central and West parts of the city (these roughly correspond to council districts 5, 7, 8, 3).
According to Philadelphia Land Bank data, council district 5 is the one with the highest number of vacant parcels, more than 12,000; followed by district 7 with more than 6,000 and by districts 3 and 8 (see Fig. 2 and 3). 20% of the estimated vacant property in Philadelphia is publicly owned, and the majority, a full 80% of vacant property in the City, is owned by private owners. In some cases, those private owners are paying their taxes and paying attention to the vacant lot or building that they own, even if they are not taking steps to maintain, improve, or redevelop the property. However, 71% of the total estimated vacancy citywide, more
than 29,800 properties, are known to be privately owned and tax delinquent. It is these properties that may present an opportunity for the Land Bank to take action, through property acquisition.