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With landmark legislation, Land Bank becomes a reality

Vacant Land

Philadelphia Land Bank

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Last week, a major step was taken towards eradicating urban blight in Philadelphia. After almost two years, Bill No. 130156, which authorizes the creation of a Land Bank, was passed by the City Council.

Philly is home to 40,000 vacant properties; more than 9,000 are owned by the City. The Land Bank will have the authority to acquire vacant, tax-delinquent properties through sheriff's sale and expedite the process of making them available. It will be the largest municipal land bank in the country.

"Philadelphia is making history," said Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez, the bill's prime sponsor. “Today, we get a step closer to creating a new tool to repurpose vacant, tax-delinquent properties and grow the city's tax base."
Passing this groundbreaking legislation was not easy. A dispute between Council President Darrell L. Clarke and Councilwoman Sánchez threatened to stall the Land Bank until after the new year. The issue centered around whether the Vacant Property Review Committee (VPRC), a Council advisory panel that holds monthly hearings on land transfers, would be included as part of the approval process when the land bank sells a property.

Rick Sauer, executive director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC), explained that an agreement was reached by keeping the VPRC's approval in the bill but adding transparency to its workings.

"We realized that to get this done, we had to compromise," says Sauer. 

Land Bank supporters believe the legislation will greatly reduce the barriers to rehabilitation and sale of blighted properties. Flying Kite previously reported on the development of an advocacy group to help the bill's passage, PhillyLandBank.org.

The Philly Land Bank Alliance includes the following stakeholders: the Building Industry Association; City Wide NAC Alliance; Community Design Collaborative; Design Advocacy Group; Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors; Philadelphia LISC; Next Great City/PennFuture; Pennsylvania Horticultural Society; Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations; Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia; Regional Housing Legal Services; and the Sustainable Business Network.

More details about the newly formed Philadelphia Land Bank will be announced in 2014.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Rick Sauer, PACDC
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