Land Bank Law Passed by Council

Vacant land in South Philadelphia | Image via planphilly.comPhiladelphia City Council unanimously passed a bill to establish a public land bank at their final meeting before the holiday recess, held Dec. 12 at City Hall. As stated in a press release from the Philadelphia Land Bank Alliance by bill sponsor Councilwoman María Quiñones Sánchez, “This Land Bank will finally give Philadelphia the tools we need to reclaim our neighborhoods from blight, abandonment, and tax delinquency, and to get properties back into productive reuse.”

The bill, proposed in March of this year by Sánchez, underwent significant changes in the last few weeks at the prompting of Council President Darrell Clarke. Clarke initially pledged support for Sánchez’s version of the bill, but expressed concerns over the lack of Council oversight to the purchasing and disbursement processes, much to the surprise and dismay to land bank champions. The Council President proposed several significant amendments to the bill after it was voted out of committee and after the period of public testimony had concluded in late October.

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Powerful App, New Coalition to Help Turn Vacant Lots Into Green Spaces

Grounded in Philly is a powerful new web app that makes it easier for Philadelphia residents to turn vacant lots into productive community spacesTwo new initiatives — the Healthy Foods Green Spaces coalition and a new web mapping and organizing tool called Grounded in Philly — will be helping Philadelphia residents come together to turn vacant lots in productive community spaces. On Wednesday, June 26, residents, community gardeners and market farmers of all ages, advocates for green space, techies, and housing and labor activists will gather to mark the launch of these initiatives at an event hosted at the Federation of Neighborhood Centers’ Teens4Good Farm at 8th and Poplar in Philadelphia. The event is from 4-7 p.m., with a press conference at 4:30 p.m.
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New website to support Philly's land bank bill ups the effort to reclaim vacant land

Every day, Philadelphia’s 40,000 vacant lots drain the City’s resources and tax revenue while fostering crime and blight. Back in February, our cover story looked at the effort to establish a publicly managed land bank that would potentially mitigate these problems. The land bank – an effort of community organizations and City Council – would gather the city’s disparately held vacant lots into a single entity, bringing efficiency and transparency to the process for developing this land and putting it to better community use.

As the land bank bill comes under consideration in City Council, the Philadelphia Association of Community Development, Next Great City and Penn Future have created a new website, PhillyLandBank.org. The site is designed to help Philadelphians track the legislative progress of the proposed land bank and serve as a loudspeaker for community members to declare their support and take action in favor of the legislation. There are also fact sheets, studies and examples of successful land banks and vacant lot redevelopment efforts throughout the country.

Take a look for yourself at phillylandbank.org. And show your support for the bill by sending an email to City Council and the Nutter administration asking them to pass this legislation.

ALEX JACOBS is the Grid intern for spring 2013. He is a junior history major at Haverford College.

Front Doors and Dollar Yards: Stepping forward in the land bank movement

Image via takebackvacantland.orgLast month, we wrote about Pennsylvania’s land bank bill and Philadelphia’s own efforts to bring the “bank” to our city. Good news! The City recently acquired the “front door” to their land bank.

After a year and a half, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority has launched new processes in acquiring property and maintaining vacant lots. This monumental first step provides an easy-access index of information regarding lot purchases, uses, applications and available properties.

This new policy includes a “$1” yard, in which eligible lots will be made available to neighbors for one dollar, plus transfer expenses. This new policy strives to incorporate fresh-air spaces in place of run-down vacancies that will enhance the overall quality of our neighborhoods.

This development comes from the efforts of Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez, Mayor Nutter’s Vacant Property Task Force, and community partners like the Philadelphia Association for Community Development Corporations. Sánchez, who had proposed a city lank bank bill this past February, especially worked to guarantee the policies were effective and applicable to diverse situations.

Land purchases will be offered at reduced prices, as a catalyst for economic and community growth. This “front door” policy should pave the way for the passing of the bill, introducing a streamlined system to community development.

The impending Philadelphia Land Bank will maintain a single authority to hold land, simplifying the process of maintaining lots. A public hearing for the bill is scheduled for Wednesday, June 6 at 2 p.m. in City Hall.

More questions? Check out the Redevelopment Authority’s website.

Want to become more active in the Land Bank campaign? Visit here to sign a petition.

Banking On It: PA land bank bill one step closer to passage

Vacant land in South Philadelphia | Image via planphilly.comRemember that vacant lot in your neighborhoodthe one you always thought would serve the neighborhood better as a community garden than a dumping ground? And remember how complicated the process was to even consider the space for redevelopment?

With 40,000 vacant lots throughout Philadelphia, this is a common problem—just finding out who owns the empty property can be a challenge. But with the approval of a bill (HB1682 and SB1414) on April 3 by the Pennsylvania State Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, Philly is a step closer to having a new way to deal with this issue.

Under a unanimous vote, the bill pushes the initiative to allow local governments to establish land banks. More than 75 local governments throughout the country already have similar land banks in place. Creating a land bank in Philly would give the city government the power to purchase, or obtain by other legal means, vacant land parcels to maintain and eventually sell. Currently, 75 percent of vacant land isn't owned by the city. Instead, it's owned by private individuals, making the selling process lengthy and often complicated, especially when ownership histories are unclear.

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