Land banks are governmental entities or nonprofit corporations that are focused on the conversion of vacant, abandoned, and tax delinquent properties into productive use.
Vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties are often grouped together as “problem properties” because they destabilize neighborhoods, create fire and safety hazards, drive down property values, and drain local tax dollars. In some sense, these are properties the private market has altogether rejected.
Land banks, in essence, are a direct response to this growing trend of vacancy and abandonment, created to strategically acquire problem properties and convert these liabilities into assets. In short, land banks are intended to acquire title to these problem properties, eliminate the liabilities, and transfer the properties to new, responsible owners in a transparent manner that results in outcomes consistent with community-based plans.
There are a few words in there that our community needs to take note of…..revitalization, tax-delinquent, and productive use. In the year I have been in the role of economic development director, I have seen and heard quite a bit about how this community would like to see growth and revitalization. I nod in agreement, I too want those things. What has appeared is the road block of where? A friend of mine often says, “it is almost like this town is 250 years old and all the best pieces of land are taken.” Truer words haven’t been spoken.
Most of our land that is vacant is vacant for a reason. It is usually under flood plain significantly, has topographical challenges that make costs to development significant, or it previously housed an operation that have created needs for environmental remediation.
If those costs to development persist, I can assure you the capital to make the properties productive does not exist locally. For that reason we must consider alternatives…………..land banks are the next logical alternative.
As we progress in discussion surrounding their creation, viability, and use, it is important for our community to consider our past, its future, and whether we can actually create new sites for development that will house the jobs that push our economy forward.
To read a little more on how they are used and whether you are in favor or not, see the link below.