Land Bank Now

Philadelphia Needs a Land Bank: A Proven Tool to Reclaim Vacant Properties

What is a Land Bank?
A land bank is a public authority created to efficiently handle acquisition, maintenance, and sale of vacant properties. Land banks have clear streamlined procedures to clear title, transfer properties to responsible owners, and acquire tax delinquent properties without risking their sale to speculators. Land banks are a best practice that more than 75 governments have adopted, including Cleveland, Louisville, Atlanta, and Genesee County, MI. 
Why Do We Need A Land Bank?
Vacant land is harming our neighborhoods and costing the City, School District, residents and businesses tens of millions of dollars each year. Available land should be one of a community’s greatest assets, but it is being held hostage by a broken vacant land management system. Ownership of 10,000 vacant properties is shared by four agencies, each with a different, long and confusing sales procedure. As a result, Philadelphia agencies sell about 1% of their properties each year. At this rate, it will take up to 100 years just to bring 10,000 publicly owned properties back into productive reuse.
How Will a Land Bank Benefit Us?
A land bank will remove blight by making it faster, easier and cheaper for neighbors, builders, community groups and investors to return vacant land to productive reuse. At the same time, a land bank will make it harder for speculators to gain ownership of vacant land. A land bank also will encourage owners to pay taxes and maintain their vacant property under threat of foreclosure.
Why Now?
The Nutter Administration, City Council and the Pennsylvania Legislature all agree that Philadelphia’s vacant property management system is broken, and each is actively working on reforming laws and policy to improve it. At a time when crime is out of control, the City and School District need every penny, homeowners require home equity to pay for college and retirement, and the City seeks quality investment, we cannot afford vacant properties that have been proven to:
  • dramatically increase gun assaults and other crimes in our neighborhoods;
  • cost the city more than $20 million for police, fire protection and basic maintenance, and owe the City more than $70 million in delinquent taxes; and
  • result in $3.6 billion in lost home equity, lowering home values from 6% to 20%.
The time is right to create a land bank to focus exclusively on reclaiming the
City’s vacant properties. Philadelphia needs a new tool to quickly and effectively put vacant land back into the hands of responsible owners with clear requirements for its redevelopment as new homes, businesses, gardens or other needed community uses. Work with Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations to make a land bank a reality in Philadelphia.
How Will a Land Bank Help Philadelphia?
A land bank will help residents and neighborhoods:
  • Reduce eyesores and nuisance properties by making it faster, easier and less expensive for neighbors, builders, community groups and investors to return vacant land back to productive reuse;
  • Make it harder for speculators to gain ownership of vacant land;
  • Hold owners accountable for maintaining their property and paying taxes using code enforcement and tax foreclosure;
  • Lower gun assaults and crime;
  • Raise home equity available for college and retirement by removing blight that has destroyed $3.6 billion in home equity;
  • Increase the number of responsible taxpaying property owners in Philadelphia and provide better financing for our schools; and
  • Create a clear, easy process for obtaining a sideyard.

A land bank will help small businesses:

  • Give business owners a single agency to go to for vacant land with a clear, written process for buying that land;
  • Allow businesses to obtain land based upon predictable, objective criteria;
  • Create more attractive commercial corridors by reducing eyesores and nuisance properties; and
  • Attract new customers to the City.
A land bank will welcome new investment:
  • Create a single, consistent, written process for obtaining publicly owned land;
  • Add transparency and accountability to the transfer of land by tracking all vacant land holds, offers and sales in a single database;
  • Allow publicly owned land to be marketed with price and priority uses disclosed upfront;
  • Permit the creation of more developable sites through assembly; and
  • Increase the viability of neighborhood markets as blight is eliminated.
A land bank will make the City more sustainable:
  • Make neighborhoods healthy and more sustainable by transforming blight into new uses;
  • Open up land for urban gardens and farming;
  • Create a user-friendly process for owners to obtain a sideyard;
  • Improve stormwater management on currently vacant land; and
  • Allow for innovative use of land for alternative energy, fruit orchards and other sustainable uses.