Tri-COG Land Bank (TCLB) was founded in 2017 by Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments and Steel Rivers Council of Governments (formerly Steel Valley COG and Twin Rivers COG). The organization was born out of years of research and advocacy seeking to address the prevalent problem of vacant and abandoned properties in the Mon Valley and Eastern Suburban region of Allegheny County. After both Councils of Governments commissioned a study to quantify the financial impact of blight in 2012, it became clear that the cost of doing nothing was staggering and unsustainable.
TCLB spent the next few years learning more about the intricacies of property acquisition and achieving insurable title, developing a scalable process to gain ownership of abandoned properties and transform them into new community assets. It acquired its first property in May 2018 and sold its first two properties in 2020. In between acquisition and sale to a new owner, TCLB also pursues the legal process of Quiet Title Action to be able to sell the properties with clean, insurable title. Additionally, TCLB addresses immediate maintenance needs and cleans out leftover trash and debris left inside each house.
Whenever possible, TCLB leverages its properties as test cases to pilot new practices and initiatives. In 2019, TCLB partnered with Conservation Consultants, Inc. (now Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh) to create a technical specification for lead safe demolition that uses techniques such as plastic sheeting and wetting. In May 2020, TCLB piloted these standards and collected data on lead concentration in the home, soil and air before, during and after demolition.
TCLB also participates in the regional Lead Safe Allegheny Coalition and seeks to partner with community groups whenever possible. For example, on July 12, 2021, TCLB transferred three properties to the City of Bridges Community Land Trust that will become permanently affordable housing units for low and middle income community members. This was the first pilot initiative of a larger partnership between the two organizations that will continue beyond these specific property transactions.
Additionally, TCLB and Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh (RTP) executed a Memorandum of Understanding in summer of 2021 to initiate a Pilot Project involving two properties, one in Rankin and one in East Pittsburgh. RTP is applying to the Federal Home Loan Bank Program to receive funding to acquire the two properties from TCLB and renovate them to sell to income-qualified homeowners. TCLB is also partnering with the Millvale Community Development Corporation (MCDC) to transfer a TCLB property to the MCDC to be renovated and sold to an income-qualified homeowner.
TCLB is committed to continually refining its processes and using models from around the country to inform best practices. It participates in both the Pennsylvania Land Bank Network and National Land Bank Network, sharing resources and learning from other land banks’ successes. TCLB also has a long-standing technical assistance contract with the Center for Community Progress, a national leader in land banking and equitable community development. Additionally, the PA Housing Alliance remains a steadfast support to TCLB.