Land Banks Are Not a Silver Bullet

We were very excited to hear that after many years of organizing, Philadelphia succeeded in winning a municipal land bank. Karen Black wrote for us here about some of the compromises it took to get it done, and Jill Feldstein of Women's Community Revitalization Project, has written a column for us for the next issue of Shelterforce on some of the organizing lessons that she took away from the process.

But, of course, implementation is everything, and Greg Heller, CEO of American Communities Trust, has an important piece over on Plan Philly about what needs to accompany a land bank to enable it to fulfill its promise, drawing lessons from Philly's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative:

In 2001 Philadelphia launched its $300 million Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI) to reduce blight and rebuild neighborhoods. One of the program’s major goals was, “Improve the City’s ability to assemble and dispose of land for redevelopment and establish a Land Bank…” While NTI had some successes in assembling land for construction of affordable housing, by and large the program’s land bank component was considered less effective than its creators hoped. As NTI was rolling out, a policy report on the program cautioned, “Urban renewal strategies focused primarily on demolition and land assembly have not proven effective.”

In light of the mixed reviews of NTI’s land bank approach a decade ago, what makes us think the current effort will be more effective? . . . Today’s land-bank boosters should learn from NTI’s flaws, but seek to emulate its strong points by again forging a comprehensive, multi-faceted, and data-driven approach.

Read the whole piece.

(Photo by Photo by Egoldin CC BY-NC-ND)

Miriam Axel-Lute is CEO/editor-in-chief of Shelterforce. She lives in Albany, New York, and is a proud small-city aficionado.


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