‘Land bank’ law expected to help reclaim blighted properties in Pa.

    Pennsylvania housing advocates are claiming victory as Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill giving local governments the green light to establish “land banks.” Supporters say the measure will help get rid of blighted, abandoned and tax foreclosed properties.   

    Liz Hersh, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, said the new law is the culmination of a five-year effort to get land banks established in the state.

    “It becomes a land bank’s job to take… donated parcels; to take blighted, vacant and abandoned property; get clear title; create an inventory; and get it back on the market for reuse,” she explained. “That could be demolition, could be redevelopment, could be resale, could be rehab, could be any number of uses, But basically it makes it somebody’s job.”

    Hersh said the law is “agnostic” concerning the best reuse for the blighted, abandoned property — that’s to be determined locally.   She said there are many possiblities; the property could be turned into a playing field, for instace, or a garden or a big development.

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    Rick Sauer of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations says the new law constitutes  a big step toward establishing a more effective system for the reuse of vacant properties.  He said the current system has not worked.  

    “Bringing all the fragmented ownership of property from various public agencies — as well as other private, tax- delinquent owners — under one roof will really facilitate a better process and enable a range of stakeholders to put property into more productive use,” Sauer said.

    The new land bank law will be discussed at a Housing Alliance summit in Harrisburg in December.

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