Looking for a Land Bank Near You? This Map Will Help!
April 14, 2023
Everywhere in the country, there are vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties. For communities with a large number of these so-called “blighted properties”—the result of decades of disinvestment, population loss, and unjust land and housing policy—the challenge is how to stop those properties from harming their communities and get them back to productive use equitably, efficiently, and effectively.
Enter one powerful tool in the fight against abandoned and blighted properties: land banks.
What is a land bank?
Land banks are public entities with unique governmental powers focused solely on returning problem properties to productive use and serving community goals. Despite their name, land banks are not financial institutions—they are critical tools that help revitalize communities challenged by vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties. Land banks are typically created with the backing of state legislation. Currently seventeen states, as well as Puerto Rico, have passed land bank-enabling legislation.
What does a land bank do?
Land banks are a vehicle for equitable community development. They can maintain vacant structures that can be restored and demolish those that cannot, turn tax-foreclosed properties into quality housing for all income levels, put together multiple adjacent vacant properties for future reuse, facilitate commercial and industrial property reuse, and work with the community to transform vacant land into parks, gardens, and other community spaces.
While the special powers granted to land banks differ from state to state, ideally land banks have the authority to:
- Acquire tax-foreclosed property cost-effectively and efficiently
- Extinguish liens and clear title
- Hold property tax-exempt
- Generate and collect revenue from delinquent property tax fees, property tax recapture, or other funding mechanisms
- Flexibly sell property to a responsible buyer and/or developer, driven not by highest price but by the outcome that most closely aligns with community goals
Is there a land bank near me?
There are over 300 land banks and land banking programs in the United States serving rural, urban, and suburban communities. In April 2023, Community Progress released a fully updated version of our National Land Bank Map, which shows the location of every city (municipality), county, regional, and state land bank and land banking program.
Search the map for your city or state to see if your community is served by a land bank. You can also see if your state has passed state-enabling legislation (which is what gives land banks their unique powers to get problem properties back to productive use) and if your state has a state land bank association (which generally helps advocate for more funding to revitalize communities and build the knowledge base of land banks).
What’s the difference between a land bank and a “land banking program”?
Land banking programs are run by nonprofit or government entities that focus specifically on the acquisition, holding, and sale of vacant and abandoned properties. They exist primarily in states without land bank-enabling legislation and typically do not have the unique powers of legislatively enabled land banks but can still provide important support to transforming vacant properties.
Can I buy a vacant property from a land bank?
Most land banks have the power to flexibly sell property to a responsible buyer or developer. Some advertise mow-to-own programs or side-lot programs that allow residents to buy neighboring plots of vacant land. Many land banks have websites where you can peruse available properties for sale.
Keep in mind, land banks are charged with serving the community. Their goal is to make sure that once a land bank property is sold it doesn’t become vacant again, that the buyer follows through with what they promised when they purchased it, and that the end use of that property is aligned with the community’s goals. Many land banks have even reformed disposition policies to prioritize outcomes that lead to more equitable, inclusive, and resilient communities. Find and contact your local land bank to learn their policies for buying and selling vacant properties.
There are no land banks serving my community. Now what?
Land banks can be a powerful tool for community revitalization, but they’re not always the best tool for every community. Land banks are most effective in weaker housing markets, communities where there are a lot of vacant and abandoned properties, and places where the cost of rehabbing a vacant, tax-delinquent property outweighs what that property might sell for.
If that still describes your community and you’re not served by a land bank, consider getting in touch with your local representatives, community development organizations, and city managers to generate support for starting a land bank, if one is needed. You can reference our one-pagers that explain what a land bank is and how a land bank can have a positive impact on the community.
Even if a land bank isn’t right for your community right now, states and municipalities have lots of tools at their disposal to address problem properties. Those include reforming their delinquent property tax enforcement systems, working with residents on creative placemaking initiatives, and practicing more strategic code enforcement that focuses on resolving pressing health and safety concerns instead of just collecting fines.
The Center for Community Progress is proud to be at the forefront of the national land bank movement. We help states assess if a land bank is needed and shape and support state-enabling legislation to passage; provide expertise to legislative improvements for land banking; train hundreds of land bank leaders; provide technical assistance to land banks seeking to improve their operations and programming; and develop, support, and engage with land bank state associations.
If you work for a land bank, join our National Land Bank Network (NLBN). NLBN connects land bank leaders to the tools, networks, and resources they need to return vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties to productive use. As the first membership-based community of practice for the field of land banking, NLBN supports the over 300 land banks and land banking programs throughout the United States with in-person and online convening, research, technical assistance, and equity-focused education.
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