Vacant and abandoned properties are a challenging problem for any community. By viewing these properties as potential assets, rather than barriers to revitalization, smart growth advocates are finding new ways to reinvest in once-neglected neighborhoods.
One notable strategy being used nationwide to contest property abandonment is lank banking. Land banks are public authorities created to acquire, hold, manage and develop vacant properties. Land banks aim to convert vacant properties that have been neglected by the open market into productive use, thereby transforming neighborhood liabilities into assets. A land bank:
- Acquires title to vacant and abandoned properties;
- Eliminates barriers to redevelopment; and
- Transfers property to a new owner in a way that supports community needs and priorities
As such, land banks often provide marketable title to properties previously impossible to develop.
Land banking is emerging as an important addition to smart growth strategies for community development. By helping communities manage vacant properties and put them back into productive use, land banks help achieve a range of smart growth goals – facilitating infill development, spurring economic investment, and preserving open space.
Today there are over 80 land banks or land bank initiatives across the country, with more forming every year. They can be found in all types of communities and in every region of the nation.
One of the most well-known, the Genesse County Land Bank in Flint, Michigan, has demonstrated the strategy’s effectiveness as a redevelopment tool. The Genesse County Lank Bank has raised surrounding property values by $109 million and has spurred $60 million in new private investment, all during a major recession and foreclosure crisis.
The success of the Genesse County Land Bank as well as others across the country make clear that land banking is an effective way to unlock the potential of vacant urban land.