(Photo by Flickr user Gary Blatt, used under a Creative Commons license)
One year after releasing a strategic plan, two since its formation and five since the idea was conceived, Philadelphia Land Bank is open for business.
A single entity tasked with reprocessing and overseeing titles for vacant, tax-delinquent properties throughout the city, the land bank now has its first 150 properties in its inventory. Approximately 500 more are pending transfer before the new year.
“Over the last five years, we have worked together to transform a dysfunctional system of property disposition into one that better serves the needs of this City through the creation of the Philadelphia Land Bank,” Mayor Michael Nutter said in a press release. “As of this week, the Land Bank now owns properties, bringing each closer to a new use, whether it is an affordable home, new business or a community garden. ”
The goal is for the vacant properties to be reprocessed, the titles cleared and the land assigned new productive community use. It’s an ambitious revitalization effort for the city’s underserved neighborhoods. Philadelphia is now the largest city in America to implement a land bank.
The first class of 150 properties were transferred by Nutter from the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation (PHDC), which plans on submitting 225 more before the end of the week. Cumulatively, PHDC owns 780 of the approximately 8,700 publicly owned vacant properties in the city.
PHDC Executive President David Thomas said transferring the properties to the land bank directly aligns with their mission of improving Philadelphia neighborhoods.
“We’re pleased to be moving properties to the Land Bank as a way of advancing our mission,” Thomas said.
Properties are owned by different city agencies like the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. Eight hundred thirty-three property transfers from the Redevelopment Authority are currently being processed by district council members, who must first approve the transfers that fall within their respective districts.
Council President Darrell Clarke said the initial transfers are a “significant” first step — some neighborhoods are thriving, but “too many suffer from disinvestment.”
“The Philadelphia Land Bank is a promise to our struggling neighborhoods that City Hall sees you, and is ready to help you heal and grow,” Clarke said. “I can’t wait to work with my colleagues, the current and next Administration, and all other stakeholders toward making good on that vow.”
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