City ponders land bank to develop vacant municipal property

 

If the city establishes a land bank, vacant properties like this one would be much easier to sell. Credit: Paige Ozaroski
A land bank is hoped to spur the sale and development of vacant properties like this one. Credit: Paige Ozaroski

Don’t look now, but Philly’s government is trying to make something easy.

A City Council committee gave preliminary approval to a bill which would start a city land bank. It will have a first reading in council on Nov. 14.

The bank would act as a clearinghouse for the 10,000 pieces of city-owned vacant land.

The bank would benefit residents, developers and leaders who find it difficult to navigate the myriad of city agencies that control real estate.

The plan is to fight blight, and to pump up the housing market and push the city’s population forward.

But ultimately, “the idea is to move it,” said Councilman Bobby Henon, chair of the Committee on Public Property and Public Works that approved the bill.

“They’re just sitting there,” Henon said, “not producing any good for the community, not producing any kind of taxes.”

If passed by City Council, the city would establish an online database listing the available land, its price tag and history of the property.

“We didn’t have a database before,” Henon said. “So it wasn’t up until last year that we even had an account of what we had. The departments didn’t talk to each other.”

Before a sale, the bank would require approval from Council and the city’s vacant property review committee.

Andrew Sharp, of the Land Bank Alliance, said in March that “The land bank would create a transparent, accountable, predictable process for folks who want to invest inland and who want to rebuild neighborhoods.”

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