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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: October 19, 2021 02:44 PM
From: Senator Vincent J. Hughes
To: All Senate members
Subject: Community Garden Preservation
In the near future, I plan on introducing legislation that would amend the adverse possession statute to provide for a process for gardeners in Philadelphia to obtain title to the property.

According to the Public Interest Law Center, there are approximately 43,000 vacant lots in Philadelphia, and over 300,000 Philadelphians live on blocks with one or more abandoned houses or lots.  Vacant properties and lots create a variety of health and safety issues and decrease surrounding home values.  Research has shown that cleaning and greening vacant lots has resulted in significant reductions to violent crimes, including gun violence, as well as increasing the perceived safety of the area.  Additionally, the cleaning and greening of vacant lands can alleviate health risks, such as heart disease and physical development delays in children, as well as stunt the impacts of climate change by reducing stormwater runoff related flooding and reducing surface temperatures.

This legislation will add vacant lot provisions to the current ten year adverse possession limitations in Title 42 in order to provide a more streamlined avenue for a community to obtain title to privately owned vacant or abandoned lots in their neighborhood so long as the lot is being used as a garden.  These gardens are often run by community members who started the garden to clean up a plot of land that has been abandoned and has become a magnet for criminal activity.   This legislation will provide those community members, who are bettering their own community, an avenue to be rewarded for their determination to clean up their neighborhoods.

Under this proposal, an individual who possesses land in Philadelphia may acquire title to privately owned lots if: they have continuously and exclusively been in possession of the land for at least ten years, at the time of filing for possession the lot is being used as a garden or community garden, at the time of filing for possession the filer has maintained the land as a garden for at least 5 years, the filer has demonstrated capacity to maintain the space by providing a plan on how they will manage the work of tending garden beds and weeding within the garden as well as trash and snow removal, the lot does not exceed one half acre, and the lot will remain a garden for at least 5 years after acquisition of the lot.  A court will impose a deed restriction, which is removable upon petition of a court, on the property at the time of acquisition.  The remainder of the adverse possession provisions in Title 42 would apply to the vacant lots in question.

I hope you will join me in cosponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as SB939