When the Real Estate Market Ruins Your Plans

Planners in Houston finally establish a municipal land-bank program for redevelopment, but find after years of delays, that the real estate market has changed.
July 15, 2004, 1pm PDT | Connie Chung
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"In the mid-1990s, when officials decided to establish a land-bank program in Houston, the Third Ward seemed an ideal laboratory for the city's newest experiment in urban redevelopment....The land bank would sell abandoned property to developers at below-market prices to promote construction of low- and moderate-income housing." The city finally established the Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the land bank program, but "finds itself at a disadvantage as it competes with Houston's freewheeling development tradition." Unlike the municipal land bank program in Dallas, the Houston program currently does not "have the authority to acquire tax-delinquent property before it becomes available to the public." In addition, the demand for property near downtown Houston "regardless of its condition, is rising."

Many people have raised concerns over the land bank concept. Some are skeptical, saying that that there is no need for city intervention if the market is already addressing the blighted area of the Third Ward on its own. On the other side of the spectrum, community groups are concerned that "there is always a risk that such programs will benefit private development interests rather than neighborhood residents."

Thanks to Connie Chung

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Published on Sunday, July 11, 2004 in The Chicago Tribune

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