Land banks are designed to acquire and maintain problem properties and then transfer them back to responsible ownership and productive use in accordance with local land use goals and priorities, creating a more efficient and effective system to eliminate blight.
In order to accomplish these tasks, land banks are granted special powers and legal authority pursuant to state-enabling statutes. Though these statutes differ widely from state to state, the more recent examples of comprehensive land bank legislation generally grant to land banks the following powers:
• Obtain property at low or no cost through the tax foreclosure process
• Hold land tax-free
• Clear title and/or extinguish back taxes
• Lease properties for temporary uses
• Negotiate sales based not only on the highest bid but also on the outcome that most closely aligns with community needs, such as workforce housing, a grocery store, or expanded recreational space
We want to stress that a land bank is not a “silver bullet” for communities struggling with blight. Though land banks are uniquely designed to help reduce problem properties, the policies, priorities, and activities of a land bank must complement other community strategies and activities, such as strategic code enforcement, smart planning and community development, and effective tax collection and enforcement.