Philadelphia Land Bank
In December 2013 City Council passed legislation, by a unanimously vote, which would create the nation’s largest land bank. GPAR is grateful for Council President Darrell Clarke’s leadership, and the vision of Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez, in moving this issue forward after years of sustained advocacy efforts by the region’s realtor community. As members of the Philadelphia Land Bank Alliance--a diverse coalition of business entities, community groups, and housing advocates—we recognized the opportunity to put these holdings back on the tax rolls, create jobs, eliminate blight, and strengthen our economy.
In Philadelphia, many individuals are deterred from buying tax-delinquent properties by having to deal with a maze of public agencies or with difficulties in finding the private owners. The land bank will take control of vacant, publicly owned properties from four city agencies, leaving the city in a better position to combine them with private real estate that it would acquire to create blocks more likely to attract developers. The land bank will also be able to acquire specific properties that threaten to bring down an otherwise healthy block.
In order to have an effective land bank to create a structural, feasible framework to address its 40,000 vacant properties, the land bank law establishes:
- One owner of publicly owned vacant land
- One inventory of vacant land
- One process for transfer of publicly owned vacant land
- One standard of maintenance for vacant land
- One standard of enforcement to hold vacant land owners accountable
Philadelphia needs a land bank that is predictable, fair, efficient, transparent and accountable. City Council members are afforded the opportunity to represent the community’s interest upfront and approve or veto any property transactions that do not meet specifications required by their respective communities. Once it is clear that a property transfer satisfies the requirements spelled out in the ordinance and will benefit the community, the property is transferred as part of a streamlined and transparent process.
To alter this course of action in any way would ultimately stymie progress and discourage development whether it is for business development or community gardens.
Given the current financial condition of our City, we can no longer afford to continue holding on to these land masses as assets. These properties reduce the city’s wealth by $3.6 billion. Vacant land and blighted deteriorated buildings costs the city $70 million in lost tax revenue. Maintenance and preservation of these vacant land parcels costs the city an additional $20 million every year. The city can no longer absorb these burdensome costs when we are facing a severe lack of funding for basic services and programs.
The Philadelphia Land Bank will be fully operational in early 2015, working to get vacant properties back into productive re-use. GPAR looks forward to working with City Council, the Administration and members of our historic coalition on this transformative initiative. Please check for updates on the Land Bank via our Facebook and Twitter pages.