January 13, 2014– Mayor Michael A. Nutter was joined by City Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez, City officials, and community advocates to celebrate the signing of historic Land Bank legislation.
“Vacant parcels of land have long been a source of crime, blight, reduction of property values, and an overall hindrance to neighborhood revitalization,” said Mayor Nutter. “Returning these properties to productive use is a critical step in revitalizing communities, attracting new residents and businesses, assisting our schools, building household wealth and strengthening the City’s finances.”
With the new ordinance, Philadelphia will become the largest city in the country with a land bank. There are approximately 40,000 vacant properties in Philadelphia, three quarters of which are privately-owned.
“I am looking forward to what the land bank can accomplish in our City,” said Council President Clarke. “This bill opens an opportunity for the City to enhance business development and community revitalization projects in our neighborhoods, and collect tax revenue from new property owners, which will directly benefit public education for our children.”
Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez added, “Today is the beginning of a change in our great City. The land bank provides a strategic, timely, predictable and transparent process for City acquisition and disposition of vacant and abandoned properties. This is a great accomplishment.”
The land bank will build on steps previously taken to simplify and streamline the land disposition process. In Fall 2010, the Nutter administration established the Vacant Property Working Group, chaired by City Finance Director Rob Dubow and Managing Director & Deputy Mayor for Administration and Coordination Rich Negrin, to develop a strategy to address the issue of vacant land.
In the last two years, the City has published disposition policies, published the inventory of vacant parcels, created an online single point of entry to acquire vacant land, and competitively sold parcels. The strategy formed by the Working Group became the foundation of the legislation signed today.
“This bill gives the City an opportunity to take an existing problem, and provides multiple solutions in every neighborhood,” said Majeedah A. Rashid, Chief Operations Officer, Nicetown Community Development Corporation. “We have seen this work in various cities across the country, and we know that we can take those existing models, combined with our City’s needs and expertise, and can change the future of living, working, and doing business in Philadelphia.”
In addition, the land bank will be able to acquire tax delinquent properties more efficiently, making it easier to combine those parcels with publically owned land to create parcels attractive for private investment.
“The land bank gives the City an opportunity to engage in every area of economic development,” said Anne Fadullon, President, Building Industry Association. “When public and private, for-profit and non-profit business and organizations have a chance to bring their goods and services to a community, it benefits business owners and the community. Job creation, business ownership, and access to quality products change the landscape of a neighborhood.”
Constance Morrow, a volunteer with the Women’s Community Revitalization Project, said, “Where I live in North Philadelphia, there are only 5 houses on my block – the rest are vacant lots. This new land bank will help turn these trash-filled lots into things we need: more affordable housing, green space and new facilities.”