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Thanks to new legislation, land banking in Philadelphia is closer than ever

Earlier this month, the prospect of land banking in Philadelphia made serious progress when Councilwoman María Quiñones Sánchez and Councilman Bill Green reintroduced enabling legislation in the City Council. Now, a diverse advocacy coalition of builders, civic associations, realtors, design professonals and other anti-blight organizations is urging the bill's immediate passage. To aid their cause, PennFuture, the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC) and other allies have launched PhillyLandBank.org.

The establishment of a land bank allows a city to acquire or group parcels of land in a strategic manner, facilitating development opportunities. Most importantly for Philadelphia, it allows municipalities to acquire property while discharging liens and other claims, charges or fines in the process -- currently, many local properties languish, saddled by delinquient property tax bills.   
As Flying Kite has reported, land banking has long a topic of discussion in Philly. Many see it as an efficient strategy for dealing with the city's 40,000 vacant and abandoned properties. Currently, blighted properties drag down the total value of city real estate by $3.6 billion, or about $8,000 per household.

Up until recently, local land banking efforts have stalled -- mostly due to the fact that the state legislature had yet to authorize cities to establish them. That legislation passed the General Assembly in Harrisburg last October, finally giving cities this powerful tool and renewing the fight to bring a land bank to Philly.
PhillyLandBank.org is the movement's biggest advocacy tool to date. PennFuture's Andrew Sharp believes the website will allow higher levels of cooperation and communication between the diverse set of backers.
"The first thing we’re aiming for is getting a hearing on the bill in April," says Sharp. That hearing, he explains, is critical to reaching the group's goal of getting the bill passed by June.
Going forward, the website will send out emails, feature regular updates on the city's push to establish a land bank and offer lessons from land banks across the nation.

Source: Andrew Sharp, PennFuture
WriterGreg Meckstroth
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