The Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land and the Land Bank Alliance represented diverse groups of people of different races, genders, ages, neighborhoods, and interests—from nurses and neighborhood activists, designers and the disabled, to co-ops and community development corporations, realtors and religious groups. It was all over the map.
On December 12th, City Council passed legislation that will make Philadelphia the largest city in the U.S. with a land bank. A land bank is a public entity that converts vacant, abandoned, and tax delinquent property back into use, as community gardens, affordable housing, and other uses. As a member of the Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land, one of two coalitions that led the push for the creation of a land bank, Mariposa is proud to have been part of the effort to bring a land bank to Philadelphia.
The Land Bank bill was passed by a unanimous 15-0 vote after an agreement was reached between Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, the main sponsor of the bill, and Council President Darrell Clarke. As a result of the compromise that was struck to win Council President Clarke’s support, City Council will retain some control over which properties are put in the land bank. While land bank advocates had resisted this, arguing the land bank should be totally independent of City Council, there is public oversight and transparency built into Council’s oversight of the Land Bank that was missing previously.
In the end, the bill included almost all that advocates had sought. One of the main benefits of a land bank will be to bring all of the city-owned vacant properties, of which there are between nine- and twelve-thousand, under a single entity. Doing this should streamline the process of getting these properties into the hands of owners who will put the land to use. The Land Bank will also be able to acquire tax-delinquent properties. There are roughly thirty-thousand privately-owned blighted parcels in Philadelphia. The Land Bank allows for parcels to be used for a wide range of purposes and community representatives will be included on the Land Bank Board.
While the creation of the Land Bank is a huge victory, there is still much work to be done, including educating people about the Land Bank is and ensuring there is proper community oversight. If you are interested in learning more about the Land Bank, please contact Matthew Goodro at firstname.lastname@example.org.