A land bank is a locally created and controlled governmental entity whose single purpose is to acquire, manage and dispose of vacant, abandoned and/or tax-delinquent properties in order to return them to productive use. A land bank is not a “silver bullet” for eradicating blight, but works in conjunction with other elements, such as code enforcement, delinquent property tax enforcement, and redevelopment agencies. At its core, a land bank is a tool for streamlining real property acquisition and disposition to support locally developed objectives.
Both organizations have similar missions and operating principles, but serve different geographic areas. With some exceptions, instances of blight outside the City of Erie are less concentrated and different approaches might be utilized to acquire properties and mitigate blight. Additionally, the City of Erie and its agencies (such as the Erie Redevelopment Authority) have procedures in place and experience dealing with urban blight; whereas more rural municipalities may need specialized technical assistance at a different level. It is important to note, however, that the two Land Banks are working closely together to share expertise and funding in order to avoid duplicity whenever possible.
Unless a property is committed to a specific project or use, properties owned by the Erie Land Bank are largely available for purchase by the public. It is the Land Bank’s goal (and obligation) to ensure that purchasers will be responsible property owners and that the intended use of the property will contribute positively to the neighborhood.
The Erie Land Bank will generally have three types of properties available for sale – vacant lots suitable for side yards or new residential construction; residential properties requiring substantial rehabilitation; and, ready-for-occupancy homes available to homebuyer/occupants. The qualifications and terms of sale will vary depending on the type of property.
In most cases, the Land Bank will accommodate interior inspections of available properties so that prospective purchasers can be fully aware of the condition of the property and the work which will be required to properly rehabilitate it.
Formulas for determining the minimum price of a Land Bank property will vary depending on the type of property being purchased – various factors may be considered, including the fair market value of the property, the amount of investment by the Land Bank, the proposed use of the property, etc. As an example, vacant properties intended to be used as side lots are generally available at a minimum offer of $10 per foot of street frontage.
While the Land Bank has a strong preference for end uses that will result in a property generating real estate tax revenue, the Erie Land Bank will consider inquiries from non-profit organizations and judge those on the merit of the proposed project and the impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
Structures are evaluated by representatives of the Erie Redevelopment Authority and/or City of Erie Code Enforcement to determine (a) if the building is structurally sound, and (b) whether a complete rehabilitation is economically feasible. Other factors may include the availability of funding and if/how the structure contributes to the neighborhood.