Last week Pennsylvania passed legislation that will equip communities in the state with a proven tool for fighting blight and vacancy and catalyzing economic development.
HB 1682, now known as the Land Bank Act, passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in February and the Senate in October before finally being signed by Governor Tom Corbett on October 24, 2012.
The new legislation enables municipalities in Pennsylvania to create land banks, local entities that can hold and manage vacant properties and direct their reuse and redevelopment. Land banks make it easier and cheaper for prospective buyers to redevelop blighted properties into homes and businesses, ultimately reversing cycles of economic decline and getting delinquent properties back on municipal tax rolls.
Pennsylvania Representative John Taylor headed efforts to pass the new legislation, and Senators Gene Yaw and David Argall also played crucial roles in the bill’s passage. Here’s what Senator Yaw had to say about the new law in the Center for Community Progress‘s recent press release about the legislation:
“Pennsylvania has taken a major step forward to address the problems of blighted, abandoned and tax delinquent properties plaguing many of our communities. The new state law…will reverse the trend of declining housing infrastructure, lower property values and tax bases, while at the same time creating community assets.”
As Senator Yaw suggests, the bill will help tackle a growing and costly challenge in Pennsylvania. The state is home to approximately 300,000 vacant properties, and those properties come with a major price tag in terms of maintenance costs and lost property tax revenue. Philadelphia alone houses more than 40,000 vacant properties, costing the city $20 million each year.
The bill’s passage represents a major victory for a coalition of advocates that has worked to build support for land bank legislation over the past few years, led by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. This victory will hopefully serve as a model to other states struggling with vacancy and abandonment in their cities and communities. Land banks are already gaining momentum in states and communities nationwide as a powerful revitalization tool, with more than 80 land banks or land bank initiatives across the country today.