Will land bank put vacant lots to work in Philadelphia?

Philadelphia City Council is dealing with the tracts of vacant, sometimes trash-strewn, land sitting idle across the city.  A recent report showed Philadelphia spends millions each year maintaining its vacant properties.  Council is considering creating a “land bank” to make use of those properties.

Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez said to remove blight, a database of properties needs to be created along with a policy for how the city disposes of land.”Right now tax delinquent properties sit on the rolls unless the city puts them up for sheriff’s sale, bids for them, acquires them, we can not quickly turn them over,” said Quiñones Sánchez.  “The land bank gives us an additional tool box to acquire these quicker while they’re still in a state can be preserved, rehabbed, and turned around quicker.”

Under the current system, vacant parcels are owned by different agencies.  Each one operates by its own rules, in some cases trying to sell at market prices.   Under the land bank bill, properties could be sold for reduced or nominal amounts if the project would be beneficial to the community.

Rick Sauer is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations.  He said it’s hard to navigate the current system in which multiple agencies own vacant land.”If you consolidate the ownership of vacant property in one place with one policy, one set of rules, it will streamline that process and make it quicker and easier to put vacant property back into productive use,” said Sauer.  “Whether that’s for housing, new businesses, or for open space.Sauer said vacant properties can lower home values and increase crime, and they cost the city millions to maintain.He said Philadelphia has the opportunity to create a national model about how to be re-use vacant property.

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