Pennsylvania is close to adopting Missouri’s 40 year old failed land banking policy. House Bill 1682, which has already passed the House and the Senate’s Urban Affairs and Housing committee, would enable local governments to establish public entities that could acquire land, incur debt, and develop vacant properties. However, these entities often block development.
Missouri’ Show-Me Institute discovered St. Louis’ land bank refused almost half of all purchase offers from 2003 to 2010. It even rejected a charter school company offering $300,000 for 13 abandoned parcels back in 2005. As of April 2011, all 13 of the parcels remain vacant. Check out the video below to learn more about St. Louis’ experience.
Philadelphia, already anticipating the passage of HB 1682, introduced ordinances to create a land bank that would give the district Council member authority over development. The Show-Me Institute also had a stern warning about this practice in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer:
One rundown St. Louis building had offers from four different buyers, all rejected by the land bank. But when the area alderman showed up at a land bank meeting and asked that it be sold to another buyer, it was.
Unfortunately, the same policy has been written into Philadelphia’s land bank bill. In its current form, it would forbid the bank from entering into a transaction without the approval of the district Council member. This will almost certainly thwart development.