Public Property Committee Hears Councilwoman Sanchez’s Land Bank Bill

Land Bank Hearing

Land Bank Hearing

Philadelphia, October 28, 2013 - City Council’s Committee on Property and Public Works voted  to approve amended legislation creating a Philadelphia Land Bank that will transform the City’s fragmented land-holding system into a single, streamlined entity with the power to quickly acquire and strategically dispose of vacant properties. The bill will now move to the full City Council for consideration.

The Land Bank legislation, introduced by Councilwoman María Quiñones Sánchez, and cosponsored by Councilman Bill Green, Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., and Council President Darrell L. Clarke, reflect a two-year collaborative process, including stakeholders from Council, the Nutter administration, and citywide coalitions representing nonprofit community organizations and for-profit developers.  Councilman Bobby Henon, Chair of the Committee on Property and Public Works, has also taken a leading role in advancing a land bank as part of his fight against tax delinquency and blight.

The bills are based on national best practices, and designed to effectively address the issue of vacant, unoccupied, rundown houses and empty lots in Philadelphia. Vacant properties—totaling more than 40,000 in Philadelphia—bring blight and depressed property values. Currently, City-controlled vacant land is spread among four local public agencies. Each agency has different rules for property sales, making it almost impossible for a buyer to purchase a parcel quickly. In addition, studies have demonstrated a relationship between vacant property and crime, and have shown that improvements to derelict parcels reduce gun assaults and vandalism.

The Philadelphia Land Bank will be a new entity created and controlled by the City of Philadelphia, and is proposed to be housed within the Philadelphia Housing and Development Corporation (PHDC). It will be coordinated with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and other City agencies directly engaged with vacant property management and blight elimination. The Land Bank will build on recent reform efforts by the Nutter administration, which has created a “Front Door” to serve as a single point of entry to coordinate applications for publically-owned property.

“I have long fought to streamline redevelopment in collaboration with nonprofit and private developers,” said Councilwoman Sánchez. “These bills will create one governmental authority to take control. The Land Bank will help eliminate blight, stabilize our neighborhoods, and put vacant property back on the tax roll.”  Currently, Philadelphia’s blighted properties drag down the total value of city real estate by $3.6 billion, or about $8,000 per household.

Added benefits of the proposed Philadelphia Land Bank include making real-time information about all vacant properties available online, and reporting requirements that will guarantee transparency in its operations. Members of the public would also be represented on the Land Bank’s Board of Directors, giving residents a voice in the creation of the Land Bank’s policies. The Land Bank will be guided by City’s new zoning code and Comprehensive Plan.

“A Land Bank will put Philadelphia ahead of other major cities that have been grappling with vacant property issues. PACDC and its allies applaud Councilmembers Sánchez and Green for moving us one step closer to creation of a Philadelphia Land Bank,” said Rick Sauer, executive director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations.

The Philadelphia Land Bank bill will implement a new state law, introduced by Pennsylvania Rep. John Taylor and passed in October of last year, which authorizes municipalities to create land banks.

Click here for amendment legislation.

Click here to see video of the hearing.

Click here for related story: Land Bank -Philly.com

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