Can a Land Bank Help Dispose of Philadelphia's 40,000 Vacant Properties?

Seeking to stabilize healthy neighborhoods and revitalize others, Philadelphia is planning to establish a land bank to "consolidate its inventory of distressed real estate," reports Jon Hurdle. The plan could become a national model.

"Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, like those of some other older cities, are pockmarked with derelict buildings and overgrown lots that have been abandoned because of foreclosure, unemployment or the decline of manufacturing," observes Hurdle. "The vacant properties cost the city millions of dollars to maintain, and they reduce the tax revenue that could come with occupancy. About 75 percent are privately owned, officials say, and many of those are tax delinquent."

To address this drain on resources, Philadelphia will pursue a path cleared by cities such as Kansas City and Cleveland

"If Philadelphia’s proposed land bank succeeds, its scope will become an example for other cities, like Detroit and New Orleans, that are struggling with large numbers of vacant properties and multiple city agencies that are responsible for them, said Frank Alexander, a professor of real estate law at Emory University and an author of many land-bank laws in other cities."

"Advocates for land banks envision a variety of uses for the abandoned properties, including market-rate and affordable housing, commercial development, and open space," notes Hurdle.

Full Story: Philadelphia Raises Stakes With Plan to Reverse Blight

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