Harrisburg, PA June 27, 2024 – Today, Senator Hughes’ Senate Bill 645 passed in the Senate with a final vote of 42-7. The bill makes it easier for Philadelphia residents to eventually own vacant and blighted land that is being used as a community garden. Specifically, the bill allows for a community group to obtain ownership of vacant land that has been used as a community garden, after ten years of use.

“The goal of this legislation is to empower Philadelphia communities to make use of vacant land to better their neighborhoods and take ownership of the beautification of their community,” said Senator Hughes. “I’m proud to see this legislation move forward and I hope to see its quick passage in the House of Representatives.”

Data has shown that vacant and blighted land can attract crime, trash, and lower property value and overall moral in communities. In Philadelphia, there are approximately 43,000 vacant lots. Over 300,000 Philadelphians live on blocks with one or more abandoned houses or lots. SB645 provides an avenue for individuals who have taken the steps to beautify and maintain abandoned vacant lots in their community to get ownership of that land. 

The legislation is modeled after a similar concept that was passed several years ago related to blight. It essentially reduces the adverse possession timeframe from 21 years to 11 years (10 years + the standard 1 year notice requirement) in the City of Philadelphia. It will only apply to privately owned vacant land, meaning land with no permanent structures and for those properties that have been maintained as a community garden for at least five of those 10 years.

SB645 is supported by the Public Interest Law Center, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Neighborhood Gardens Trust, the Brewerytown Garden, and WeConserve PA.

The bill will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.