Landbank, Financial Considerations

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December 3, 2012 by Zee

The going statistic is approximately 40,000 abandoned parcels are floating around our great city sucking up precious potential; AND potential property tax dollars, which fund our schools and the like…

Not only are they gobbling up greenspace, and taxpayer greenbacks, but to prevent these condemned houses and abandoned properties from becoming life hazards that harbor:

rodents, bugs, disease, contamination, hazardous materials and waste and preventable injuries, this blight must be “repaired and maintained”–to the tune of TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS. ANNUALLY.

A land bank in Philly promises to alleviate this social problem and subsequent financial burden, but how?

How will it be funded?

We already allocate funding to various city departments including the Depart of Public Property, and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority to handle the disbursal of this public ill. The desire for a land bank itself speaks to the lack of success the various agencies have had. But I want to know more.

urban jungle

How did they use that money? What worked and what didn’t?  Once a land bank is established will the funding set aside for these agencies be reallocated to the land bank?

Additionally, once these properties are transferred, they will still need to be “maintained and repaired’ or demolished, which can be pretty expensive and extensive. Where is that money coming from?

They success of a land bank hinges on how quickly a property can be unloaded or disbursed to a responsible owner.

Phat Wad, Break me off some

To spur a swift uptake in disbursal, the properties will have their liens lifted, titles cleared and be offered at nominal rates.

But if properties are unloaded for pennies on the dollar, how will the deficit created by delinquent property taxes be reimbursed?

Counting the pennies

More likely than not many properties will be cherry-picked quickly that way; but without guided implementation, after some time the rate of transfer will decrease.

The city will have released responsibility for parcels the community was already waiting for; their side lots, community gardens, expansion estates and promising clusters of turnaround town dujour. Only the large sites, brownfields or major renovation-needed buildings will remain.


I’m not looking at the numbers, but I suspect these types of properties are not only the more difficult to disburse, but the most expensive to maintain.

The sad reality is they are also the most costly to a community if neglect is allowed to remain. Lets not forget those firefighters in that Kensington warehouse.

And let us not forget that much of a properties true value is not recognized with solely money. Creating investing anchor businesses that generate tax revenue, employment and add culture/entertainment/activity to our city makes it more valuable than the land dumps and life hazards currently scattered around us, even if it means some short term loss.

So there will of course need to be a balanced assessment between ongoing maintenance costs vs. un-recouped tax revenue and property cost discount.
Who is crunching those numbers for us (,and what is their objective)?



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