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A land bank is a governmental entity created expressly to acquire, hold and facilitate development on vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties. Jurisdictions can create land bank authorities to acquire and hold properties so they can be saved for development as affordable or mixed-income housing near transit. Land banks typically require their own enabling legislation. Land bank authorities also typically have powers to help prepare challenging properties for development through such means as clearing title encumbrances, forgiving property taxes (and thereby removing tax liens), removing environmental contamination, and assembling parcels. When the time is right for development, land bank authorities usually transfer land to private developers (for-profit or non-profit) with conditions attached that guide how the property will be developed.
Genesee County, Michigan
Genesee County, Michigan has had a successful land-banking program. For a brief period of time, tax foreclosed properties are held before being returned to the market under the Genesee County Land Bank Authority. This allows for parcels to be grouped together, providing a more attractive resale opportunity and an assessment of potential property owners to ensure that they can contribute to the long-term community vision. In the first three years of the program, the Genesee County Land Bank Authority has acquired the title to more than 3,400 land parcels. The Genesee County Land Bank Authority has also successfully transferred 130 foreclosed tenant occupied properties to non-profit housing agencies, whose objective is to stabilize communities and encourage home ownership, redeveloped a 30,000 sq. ft. mixed use building in downtown Flint and have assembled hundreds of empty lots for city development projects and local non-profit and community organization projects.
Cuyahoga County, Ohio
From 2005 to 2009, Cuyahoga County experienced a significant increase in home foreclosures, accounting for some of the highest foreclosure and vacancy rates in the country during that period. At the time, Cleveland was operating a land bank but it did not have the authority or the tools necessary to address the problem of the numerous vacant and abandoned homes in the region. In 2009, the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation (CCLRC) formed in order to restore real estate markets and protect the county’s tax base while transforming the abandoned and vacant homes into assets for the people who lived in the community. If a property goes through a tax foreclosure process, each city in Cuyahoga County has the right to become the owner of the land before the rights are turned over to the bank. If the property enters the land bank through another process, the cities have the priority acquisition position for 30 days.
The CCLRC also developed an information system tool that allows stakeholders to make better property acquisition and investment decisions. This system, called “The Eye”, is virtually connected to multiple databases including those from the Auditor, Treasurer, title companies, the Clerk of Courts, the Demolition and Building Code Departments, and city permit filings. The Eye allows users to get information on the property’s characteristics, proximity to assets and much more.
Denver, Colorado, community groups coalesced to produce a TOD-focused land banking fund. Denver’s Urban Land Conservancy is the managing partner along with the City of Denver and Enterprise Community Partners. The Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Fund focuses on creating affordable homes within a half mile of current or future light rail and a half mile of high frequency, high volume bus corridors. Enterprise assembled the initial $15 million in capital from a variety of foundations and banks. The City of Denver invested $2.5 million in the fund. Operations began in mid-2009 and the fund is expected to continue to expand beyond $15 million.
The City of Charlotte, North Carolina, has established an acquisition fund to purchase land near the stations planned along its South Corridor light rail line to ensure the development of mixed-income, mixed-use TOD. The City Council capitalized the fund with an initial grant of $5 million. It is jointly managed by Coldwell Banker Commercial, the Charlotte Area Transit System, and several city departments (Economic Development, Planning, Neighborhood Development and Engineering). The first site, the Scaleybark station area, was purchased with the help of the city’s Housing Trust Fund, and development is required to meet a minimum affordable housing threshold.