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What is the Neighborhood Revitalization and Land Banking Act?

April 25, 2024

A white building with boarded up windows

Dealing with vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties is a daunting and expensive task for communities across the country. The Neighborhood Revitalization and Land Banking Act, S. 4146, introduced in the Senate on April 18, 2024 by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), is an exciting new development for struggling communities that have experienced decades of disinvestment, loss of industry, and population decline that have left them with more vacant properties than the market can absorb.  

The bipartisan bill is an important step in giving rural, urban, and suburban communities the tools to address “blighted” properties. The key focus of the bill is providing support to land banks, a tool many communities are adopting to support economic and neighborhood revitalization.  

Finding solutions to these challenges is essential. If communities can’t overcome the barriers to getting vacant properties back to new, responsible ownership, they will continue to pose significant costs to public health, property values, local taxpayers, and more. 

What is a land bank? 

A land bank is a public agency with unique powers to put vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties back to productive use according to community goals. A land bank’s primary purpose is to acquire vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties and temporarily hold and take care of them until they can be transferred to new, responsible owners. State laws give land banks their unique powers. While these powers vary state to state, ideally land banks can:  

  • acquire tax-foreclosed property cost-effectively  
  • flexibly sell property to a responsible buyer or developer, driven not solely by the highest price but by the outcome that most closely aligns with community goals 
  • 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  

There are more than 300 land banks and land banking programs across the country and 18 states and Puerto Rico have passed state-enabling land bank legislation.   

What does the Neighborhood Revitalization and Land Banking Act do? 

The bipartisan Neighborhood Revitalization and Land Banking Act proposes several supports for communities to address vacant properties: 

  • Property Condition Data. Most communities don’t have good data on how many vacant properties there are, where they’re located, and what condition they’re in. The proposed bill creates a grant program for land banks and other eligible entities to receive $10,000 annually to track property conditions and develop a database for tracking vacant properties to know the scale of work needed. 
  • Grants for Revitalization Planning and Implementation. The bill would establish $100,000-$250,000 planning grants allowing land banks to develop targeted revitalization plans for identified vacant and abandoned properties, as well as $2-15 million implementation grants to put these plans into action over a 5-year period. Eligible land bank activities include property maintenance, site preparation, remediating environmental contamination, property acquisition/disposition, demolition, deconstruction, and property rehabilitation. 
  • Blighted Property Remediation Fellowship Program. Most land banks have one or fewer full-time staff; far less capacity than the scale of the problem in most communities. The bill proposes a fellowship program to advance the land banking field through research and the development of expertise within the workforce. 
  • Technical Assistance. The proposed bill would establish a system through which new and under-resourced land banks could receive free technical assistance from subject matter experts in developing community revitalization strategies and in navigating the grant application process. 

Why do land banks need more funding? 

While land banks have proven impact in revitalizing communities, they don’t have the resources proportional to the scale of vacancy they’ve been tasked to address. In our 2023 State of Land Banking Survey, 65 percent of land banks reported underfunding as one of their biggest threats to success.  

Land banks typically work in communities where property values are very low and real estate markets are weaker, while the costs of property maintenance, rehabilitation/remediation, acquisition, and disposition are high and continue to rise. “Senators Casey and Capito understand how much land banks in Pennsylvania and West Virginia already do with so little, and recognize the need to support land bank-led strategies to understand and revitalize vacant spaces in their communities,” said Rob Finn, Vice President of Policy and Research at Community Progress, “This is a smart, well-designed bill built around input and feedback from land bank stakeholders around the country.” 

The grant programs under the Neighborhood Revitalization and Land Banking Act would provide critical resources that help land banks revitalize communities. With endorsements from communities, coalitions, and nonprofits across the country, we are excited to see this bill move forward and deliver support to the communities that need them most. 

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