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Race, Regionalism and Abandoned Properties: How Land Banks Can Promote Regional Equity and Community

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Title: Race, Regionalism and Abandoned Properties: How Land Banks Can Promote Regional Equity and Community


1
Race, Regionalism and Abandoned Properties How
Land Banks Can Promote Regional Equity and
Community Development
Keynote address for Smart Growth America April
08th 2005
  • john a. powell
  • Williams Chair in Civil Rights Civil Liberties,
    Moritz College of Law
  • Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race
    and Ethnicity
  • The Ohio State University
  • http//www.kirwaninstitute.org/

2
Key Questions for Todays Presentation
  • What problems are associated with vacant land and
    abandoned property?
  • What are the racial implications of this problem?
  • What is a policy response to this problem?
  • How are land banks beneficial?
  • How do land banks fit within the context of
    promoting regional equity?

3
What are the Neighborhood Impacts of Vacant and
Abandoned Property?
  • In addition to being neighborhood eyesores,
    research has shown vacant and abandoned property
    have many detrimental community impacts
    including
  • Decreased property values
  • Reduced tax revenues
  • Creating public safety hazards
  • Attracting and promoting crime

4
Decreased Property Values
  • Homes within 150 of vacant property have been
    found to experience a net loss in value of 7,600
  • In Philadelphia, homes on city blocks with vacant
    properties have values than are 6,700 lower than
    identical homes on blocks without vacant
    properties
  • A study in Rhode Island found that vacant homes
    decrease property values by over 1.3 billion

Source Creating Opportunities From
Abandonment National Vacant Properties Campaign.
(http//www.vacantproperties.org/)
5
Reduced Tax Revenues
  • Abandoned properties remove tax producing
    property from the municipal tax base
  • This produces community wide impacts in providing
    public services and supporting schools
  • In 2002, delinquent tax revenue cost the City of
    Detroit 95 million in tax revenue and 67
    million in school taxes

6
Threats to Public Safety
  • Vacant structures are highly vulnerable to
    accidental fires because of faulty wiring and
    flammable debris. They are also frequently
    targets for arson. In some cities, fire
    departments simply cannot handle the volume of
    calls concerning fires in vacant properties.
  • The US Fire Administration estimated that over
    12,200 fires are reported in vacant structures
    every year, resulting in 73 million in property
    damage annually.
  • The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
    states that 6,000 firefighters are injured in
    vacant or abandoned building fires every year.

7
Increased Crime
  • Research has found illegal use and criminal
    activity to be rampant in vacant properties
  • Crime rates on blocks with open abandoned
    buildings were twice as high as rates on matched
    blocks without open buildings.

8
Race and Abandoned Property
  • The concentration of abandoned properties in
    inner city areas burdens African Americans with
    the majority of the problems associated with
    vacant land
  • Stagnant tax base for public services and schools
  • Decreased public safety and higher crime
  • Decreasing assets for African American homeowners
  • Limited land available for commercial development
  • Relationship between sprawl and abandonment

Vacant Property
Sprawl
9
Sprawl and Abandoned Property
  • Relationship between sprawl and abandonment
  • Sprawl causes abandonment (disinvestment)
  • Abandoned properties produce more sprawl
  • Two of the nations most sprawling regions have
    the worst abandoned property problems
  • Philadelphia
  • 1st nationally for major cities, in respect to
    the number of vacant buildings per population
  • Detroit
  • 2nd nationally for major cities, in respect to
    the number of vacant buildings per population

Source Brookings Institute
10
Disinvestment in Communities of Color
  • Decades of suburban flight have drained low
    income inner city neighborhoods of people,
    business and investment
  • High vacancy rates and poor investment harms the
    quality of life for inner city residents and
    limits the resources (tax base) for low income
    communities

11
Vacancy and Abandonment Disproportionately
Impacts Communities of Color
  • In the Detroit metropolitan area
  • The average African American lives in a
    neighborhood where 9 of properties are vacant,
    for Whites this figure is 4
  • For the Flint metropolitan area
  • The average African American lives in a
    neighborhood with a 12 vacancy rate, compared to
    6 for Whites.
  • Similar racial disparities exist in Saginaw,
    Grand Rapids, Lansing, Benton Harbor and
    Kalamazoo
  • Vacant properties are concentrated in inner city
    communities, but vacant land is a regional
    problem and has regional impacts

12
Abandonment Produces Impacts Across at Multiple
Levels
  • Abandonment not only impacts inner city
    communities of color, but produces impacts on
    multiple levels
  • Neighborhood
  • Increases crime, creates public safety risks,
    impacts property values
  • City
  • Hurts tax base and school funding
  • Region
  • Detrimental to the regions economic health
  • Increases the pressure for more sprawl
  • Spreading to inner ring suburbs

13
The Dynamics of Race, Space and Abandoned
Properties
14
The Dynamics of Race, Space and Abandoned
Properties
The residential segregation and disinvestment in
inner city communities has burdened African
American neighborhoods with an overabundance of
vacant and abandoned properties and impacts the
entire region.
15
Why havent municipal governments addressed the
vacant land problem?
  • Many impediments make addressing abandoned (tax
    delinquent) properties difficult, including
  • Presence of multiple taxing bodies that lack
    common policies and goals
  • Absence of effective property inspection, code
    enforcement, and rehabilitation support to help
    prevent properties in poor conditions from
    descending into abandonment
  • Lengthy and inadequate foreclosure proceedings,
    which may not result in a clear insurable title
  • Lack of coordination among agencies and
    departments responsible for enforcement,
    acquisition, and disposition
  • Prohibitively high land prices for abandoned
    properties
  • Ownership of vacant land by property speculators
  • Perception that vacancy is only an inner city
    problem

16
What is a Land Bank and how does a Land Bank
address these Impediments?
  • A land bank is a non-profit entity that
    comprehensively addresses the acquisition and
    redevelopment of abandoned (tax delinquent)
    properties
  • With the aide of property foreclosure reform, a
    land bank can efficiently dispose of property,
    target redevelopment activities and avoid
    conflicts between multiple taxing jurisdictions

17
Some Land Bank Benefits (in MI)
  • The purpose of a land bank is to overcome many of
    the barriers to redeveloping tax delinquent
    properties
  • Land banks can also perform functions that are
    outside the traditional realm of municipal
    government
  • Waiving unpaid property taxes to promote
    development
  • Selling properties at below-fair market values
  • Comprehensively redeveloping properties, with a
    focus on long-term community development goals
  • Assembly of multiple vacant parcels for
    redevelopment
  • Providing clear title for tax foreclosed
    properties

18
Land Banks as a Tool for Community Development
  • A successful land bank program can be another
    policy tool for neighborhoods, municipalities or
    regions to effectively address the demand for
    affordable housing, commercial development and
    safer neighborhoods

19
Land Banks Facilitate Change
Five common barriers to the conversion of vacant
and abandoned properties into productive uses.
  • Source Alexander, Frank S. Land Bank
    Authorities A Guide for the Creation and
    Operation of Local Land Banks Local Initiatives
    Support Corporation. 2005.

20
Land Bank Functions, Powers, Activities Vary by
Location
Source
Source Alexander, Frank S. Land Bank
Authorities A Guide for the Creation and
Operation of Local Land Banks Local Initiatives
Support Corporation. 2005.
21
A Successful Land Bank Program Can Provide Many
Benefits to Inner City Communities
22
Potential Land Bank Benefits
  • Reuse of sites reintroduction of properties onto
    dwindling tax rolls
  • Broadening of viable living arrangements across
    income, class and race within the metropolitan
    housing market
  • Potential to addresses neighborhood needs with
    local representation and municipal support
  • The broader impacts of policy involved in
    creating a land bank are an efficient way to curb
    sprawl, through re-use of land already served by
    the dense infrastructure present in cities

23
What have existing Land Banks Done?
  • Land Bank programs are not new and have been
    implemented in many cities across the nation
    most have proven successful in returning
    abandoned properties to successful use

Vacant Property Redevelopment in Columbus, Ohio
BEFORE
AFTER
24
Successful Land Bank Programs Cleveland and
Atlanta
  • National experts have identified both the
    Cleveland and Atlanta Land Bank programs as two
    of the most successful programs in the nation
  • Both programs target redeveloping properties to
    meet greater community development goals

25
Successful Land Bank Programs Cleveland and
Atlanta
  • In Cleveland the Land Bank program works closely
    with community development corporations (CDCs)
    in redeveloping properties
  • This enables CDCs to focus resources on
    construction and rehabilitation instead of land
    acquisition costs
  • In the first twenty years of existence the
    Cleveland program has produced over 2,700 new
    single family homes on Land Bank properties

26
Successful Land Bank Programs Cleveland and
Atlanta
  • In Atlanta, the Land Bank has also been very
    successful in creating housing opportunities
  • The Land Bank Authority acts as an intermediary
    between government and community based
    redevelopment efforts, and provides technical
    assistance to developers.
  • Often Community Development Block Grant funds are
    coordinated with Land Bank activities
  • Since 1994, more than a 1,000 land bank
    properties have been redeveloped in Atlanta

27
What lessons can be learned from existing Land
Bank programs?
  • The ability to forgive back property taxes is
    critical
  • Alignment with other agencies, institutions or
    programs (ex. CDCs, CDBG) increases the chances
    for success in redeveloping properties
  • Land bank redevelopment can be targeted to meet
    community needs (e.g. affordable housing)
  • Programs working with long term planning goals
    have more potential for long-term success

28
Two Philosophical Models in Land Bank
Redevelopment
  • Fiscal Returns (Go for the money)
  • Fiscally driven land bank program
  • The traditional approach when municipalities
    address vacant land issues
  • Provides provide short-term benefits but may
    results in long term problems
  • Community Development (Looking at the big
    picture)
  • Planning driven land bank program
  • Aligning redevelopment with other community
    development needs
  • Strategically redeveloping parcels to maximize
    development potential

29
What is the Appropriate Model? A Planning Driven
Land Bank
  • If the primary goal of any disposition effort is
    to return the property to a productive use, the
    disposition of the property must be linked to a
    revitalization strategy. After three years of
    managing the Revitalife Program and from lessons
    learned from other communities, we have come to
    understand that absent a link with a broad
    revitalization strategy, the land bank will have
    far less value than anticipated by its sponsors.
    A land bank should be considered a tool in a
    broader urban revitalization strategy, not a
    complete solution.
  • Taken from the Community Revitalization
    Newsletter January 2004. Juergensen Associates
    (Coordinators of the State of Michigans
    Revitalife Program)

30
What is the Appropriate Model? A Planning Driven
Land Bank
  • A land banks purpose should be to encourage the
    redevelopment of the city in ways that improve
    the quality of life and add to the economic
    vitality of the city
  • The land bank should not be driven by short-term
    fiscal goals, but rather long-term community
    development goals
  • Its purpose should not be to make money through
    the sale of land, but return land to the tax
    rolls permanently in a manner that benefits
    neighborhoods and the city as a whole
  • To maximize its potential, the land bank program
    requires planning and goals that extend beyond
    short-term fiscal benefits.  The goal of the land
    bank should be community development, which will
    produce long-term fiscal benefits
  • Example In St. Louis, initial land bank
    activities focused more on short term fiscal
    benefits of placing land back on tax roles.
    Currently, St. Louis utilizes more of a planning
    based approach to land bank activities.

31
Seizing Opportunity Land Bank Legislation in
Michigan
  • The State of Michigan has enacted legislation to
    establish land bank programs in the State
  • The Land Bank Fast Tract Legislation
  • Creates a state land bank authority
  • Enables large cities and counties to establish
    land banks
  • Establishes an internal funding system to support
    new land banks
  • Enables land bank authorities to expedite quiet
    title of tax reverted properties and make them
    available at nominal prices
  • There is no other system in the United States
    that pulls together the ability to quickly
    assemble property into single ownership by the
    county, the tools to manage it, and the financing
    tools to develop that property,
  • -Dan Kildee, Genesee County, discussing the new
    fast-track law that his county is integrating
    into its own ongoing efforts, Source Michigan
    Land Use Institute

32
Evidence From a Successful Michigan Land Bank
Program Genesee County (Flint)
  • Flint, like many central cities in Michigan has
    an abundance of vacant land and abandoned
    properties

33
Evidence From a Successful Michigan Land Bank
Program Genesee County (Flint)
  • Genesee County initiated a land bank program by
    capitalizing on foreclosure reform in 1999
  • In its first three years the program captured
    over 3,300 parcels of land
  • A foreclosure prevention program has saved almost
    1,000 homes from foreclosure
  • Hundreds of dilapidated homes have been
    demolished and dozens of homes rehabilitated
  • The program is now coordinating with a
    neighborhood based planning effort to maximize
    redevelopment of sites
  • Regional program (City/County cooperation)

34
Why is Genesee Countys Program Successful?
  • Planning driven approach
  • Addresses what to do with the assemblies in a
    broader community context / planning strategy.
  • Proactive engagement
  • Policies to avoid foreclosure as well as
    redevelopment
  • Government cooperation as an effective vehicle to
    drive the land bank (requires city and county
    cooperation)
  • Requiring a more regional approach to the vacant
    land problem

35
Expanding Land Bank Programs in MI
  • The success of the Genesee County Land Bank
    program should motivate other cities in the State
    to utilize the Land Bank Fast Tract Acts to
    address the abandoned property issue
  • For example, the City of Detroit contains the
    largest number of tax foreclosed properties and
    vacant properties in the State (approximately
    40,000 tax reverted parcels, 90,000 vacant
    parcels city wide)
  • A proactive planning driven land bank could be a
    powerful tool to foster community development in
    the City and address both social, environmental
    and fiscal problems

36
Grassroots Activism for a Land Bank Authority in
Detroit M.O.S.E.S.
  • Community activists in Detroit have been
    advocating to establish a Land Bank program in
    Detroit
  • Metropolitan, Organizing, Strategy, Enabling,
    Strength (M.O.S.E.S.)
  • Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD)
  • Community Legal Resources (CLR)
  • M.O.S.E.S., a congregation-centered, faith-based
    community organization has been working to
    establish a land bank in Detroit for several
    years
  • M.O.S.E.S. has advocated at both the
    neighborhood, city, county and state level to
    advocate for Land Bank establishment

37
Grassroots Activism for a Land Bank Authority in
Detroit M.O.S.E.S.
  • M.O.S.E.S. interest in the land bank was
    initially spurred by its congregational
    membership who were struggling to address
    abandoned property near their places of worship
  • M.O.S.E.S. has tied Land Bank advocacy into its
    broader regional equity initiative and believes a
    Detroit land bank can be used to promote regional
    equity in the Detroit region

38
Lessons Learned in Advocating for a Land Bank in
Detroit with M.O.S.E.S.
  • The Kirwan Institute has provided technical
    support to support M.O.S.E.S. in these activities
  • Lessons learned
  • Involves an educational process
  • Technically complex problem, people see the
    problem but must elaborate the connection between
    the problem and land use/sprawl/planning
  • Requires extensive relationship building

39
How do Land Bank Programs, or Other Vacant
Property Campaigns Fit into a Regional Equity
(and Smart Growth) Context?
  • Land Banks are not just powerful tools for inner
    city redevelopment but can be useful in promoting
    regional equity and smart growth
  • How?
  • Promoting regional cooperation and problem
    solving
  • Addressing the trends of disinvestment inflicting
    inner city communities of color
  • Promoting more infill development in urban areas
  • Addressing the inequity in tax base and school
    funding in our regions
  • Promoting housing opportunities and commercial
    development in communities of color

40
How do Land Bank Programs, or Other Vacant
Property Campaigns Fit into a Regional Equity
(and Smart Growth) Context?
  • Land bank programs are another planning tool to
    promote regional equity goals
  • Focus does not need to be limited to affordable
    housing
  • Land bank redevelopment can be used to develop
    properties into uses that will improve
    opportunity and regional equity
  • Mixed income housing, commercial development,
    parks and open space, economic development,
    cultural or educational facilities, public
    services, transit centers………

41
Cautionary Note
  • Land bank programs are not a silver bullet to
    improving inner city communities of color or
    promoting regional equity
  • But, they are a powerful policy tool and can be
    maximized by coordinating with other regional
    equity/redevelopment initiatives
  • Affordable housing development, school reforms,
    equitable economic development

42
Concluding Thoughts
  • Abandoned property and vacant land
    disproportionately impact inner city communities
    of color
  • Land bank programs provide a powerful tool to
    address this problem
  • Land banks both remove the problems associated
    with vacant land and disinvestment, as well as
    promote opportunities for reinvestment

43
Concluding Thoughts
  • Land bank programs can be established with
    different goals
  • Property Tax Recovery (Fiscally Driven)
  • Community Development (Planning Driven)
  • Planning driven land bank models are more
    appropriate and can deliver more benefits to the
    community as a whole
  • Land bank programs are not just an inner city
    issue, they can compliment regional equity
    initiatives and can be a tool to promote a
    regional framework

44
For More Information Visit us On-Line at
http//www.kirwaninstitute.org/
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