Land banks on steroids: How to disrupt speculation in your community

Attendees who have a land bank will be inspired by hearing three success stories on utilizing land banks to preserve affordable housing as a strategy to return vacant properties to productive use. Attendees who don’t have a land bank will want to create one to implement these creative strategies in their own markets. The speakers will delve into the specifics of how they assessed the need to revitalize their own communities by developing long-term affordable housing needs and putting previously vacant and abandoned properties back into the residential market as community assets.

Jean Ishmon, Consulting Executive Director, Northwest Indiana Reinvestment Alliance, Hammond, IN

Christopher Norman, Executive Director, Fulton/Atlanta Land Bank Authority, Inc., Atlanta, GA
Robert Rose, Executive Director, Cook County Land Bank Authority, Chicago, IL
Hope Kingsborough, Vice President of Programs and Housing, Central Ohio Community Improvement Corporation, Columbus, OH

By Zoe Paige 

Land banks are a large body of land held by a public or private organization for future development or disposal. They were created in the 1960s to help refurbish properties that had been rejected for various reasons by the private market. However, states like Maryland, Ohio and Georgia discovered in recent decades that land banks were beginning to garner more interest from investors. What made land banks so attractive were rules that were meant to help get the properties back into private market shape quickly like being able to have direct ownership without paying interest or origination fees. It was an affordable alternative to building an investment portfolio. Land banks are now more well-known as a profitable investment, which is encouraging states to regroup and update laws for land banks.

Some states, like Georgia, have continued to make new laws addressing land banks; the strategy is to help close all the loopholes in owning one. Genesee County in Michigan bought an average of 1,000 abandoned properties per year; this action added more than $100 million in property value to the county. One of the critical issues communities are facing is outside investors abandoning the property or leaving it in poor condition. State-owned land banks centered their solution on creating more efficient and thorough regulations to reassure investors are not leaving a property in poor health.

Fulton/Atlanta Land Bank Authority, Inc. prepared a Comprehensive Chronic Distressed Property Strategy that illustrated a flow chart showing the difference between a “bad” and a “good” property. States utilized land banks to repurpose property as affordable housing. Currently, many states are demanding land backs be required to have regular checkups, and acquire more permits and approvals. Outside of making sure investors upkeep their property, state-owned land banks are using capital to enforce more community development. If it is not the state who is repurposing the abandoned property, nonprofit organizations have been a great tool to find resources their neighborhoods need. Building community centers, shelters and hospitals are only a few of the ways states have repurposed land banks. Even if it’s not the solution to end all high-income housing, it is a great way to pull revenue while helping the community.

Robert Rose
Jasmine Brewer – Land Bank_Rob Rose_2019 NCRC Presentation

Hope Kingsborough
Jasmine Brewer – Kingborough_Land Banks_NCRC Conference Presentation FINAL.pptx

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