Pittsburgh, PA
United States


Analyzing data and community interviews to understand the root causes of hypervacancy in Black communities to develop a framework for racially just land recycling.

“Hypervacancy”—the characteristic of high concentrations of vacant land—has marked health impacts on the residents who live in affected areas. Urban planning policies and discriminatory lending practices have systematically harmed Black residents and led to hypervacancy. Research shows that children living in neighborhoods with hyper-vacant conditions achieve less academically, are chronically sicker, and earn less over their lifetimes. In order to address the health concerns associated with hypervacancy and reduce the amount of divested publicly owned vacant lots in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Grounded Strategies and de-bias will demonstrate the value of this land and how it can be used for racially just land use and recycling processes. 

Using publicly available data and resident interviews, Grounded Strategies and de-bias will be able to better understand the root causes of land loss and land divestment and their impacts on Black Pittsburgh residents. They will then use these data to create a geostatistical model that can identify lots best suited for racially equitable reuse. This reuse will focus on the residents of districts 6 and 9, which have been most affected by land loss. Grounded Strategies and de-bias will not only train, hire, and compensate residents to collect the data for this project, but also give residents the first choice for land reclamation.    

Grounded Strategies and de-bias will produce a replicable case study and intellectual framework for racially just land recycling based on residents’ experiences and knowledge. In the short term, Grounded Strategies and de-bias will provide the city and residents with an accurate geodatabase of publicly owned vacant land lots and their history. They will also give community organizations a model for parcels suited for racially just end uses. In the long term, this information will allow residents, victims of land loss from tax delinquencies, and their descendants to advocate for no-cost transfers and low-cost purchases of their land back. It will also provide an opportunity to pair regenerative intergenerational wealth with racially just neighborhood development in the communities most affected by hypervacancy.