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Coalition: Collapse could have been avoided if city had land bank

The Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land said establishing a city land bank would help rid the city of speculators who own multiple blighted properties.

building collapse Responders sifted through rubble yesterday as a search and rescue operation unfolded near 22nd and Market streets. (Credit: Rikard Larma / Metro).

Community, faith and labor group coalition the Campaign to Tack Back Vacant Land issued a statement on Thursday stating Wednesday's fatal building collapse is evidence of the urgent need to pass legislation enacting a land bank in Philadelphia.

"The deadly collapse at 22nd and Market reminds us yet again that bad land decisions can kill," the statement reads.

"Not surprisingly, the owner of the building that collapsed, killing five women and one man, is a speculator who sat on blighted properties, waiting on a profit. He joins thousands of other speculators in this city who harm our city, increasing blight, avoiding taxes and draining our communities.

"Land is a precious resource, and this resource should be in the hands of people who have the best interests of everyday Philadelphians, like those working and shopping at the Salvation Army Thrift store yesterday, at heart."

The group said the tragedy "reminds us that we don't have the luxury to wait on reforming Philadelphia's broken land policies" and is urging the swift passage of City Council bill no. 130156.

The legislation, first introduced last year but re-introduced by Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez in March, would create a central repository overseen by a single board of directors through which the transfer of vacant, blighted and delinquent land would be expedited.

The city would be required to notify the land bank of all properties slated to go to Sheriff's sale so the bank can claim desired parcels.

"Land is a precious resource, and this resource should be in the hands of people who have the best interests of everyday Philadelphians, like those working and shopping at the Salvation Army Thrift store yesterday, at heart," the coalition stated, noting the creating of a land bank would help transform blighted land to uses that would benefit residents by supporting job-creating small businesses, affordable housing, green space and urban farming.

The City Council legislation is currently awaiting approval from the Committee of Public Property and Public Works.

"Getting buildings back into productive use means more revenue for our schools and public services" Take Back Vacant Land said.

"Providing sustainable businesses access to land means more jobs our communities desperately need. Affordable and accessible housing means quality homes for the tens of thousands of Philadelphians that need it. And greater transparency and accountability about how land changes hands in Philadelphia has the potential to save lives."

 
 
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