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What You Need to Know About the Philadelphia Land Bank

The Philadelphia Land Bank officially opened for business yesterday when it gained its first 150 properties from the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. And it was a longtime coming: the Land Bank was created in 2013 as a way to streamline the sales of vacant, tax-delinquent city properties to private developers, according to the Philly Voice. At the press conference yesterday, Mayor Michael Nutter said, "We would have liked to have had this about a decade ago." But what exactly does this all mean for the 8,700 public-owned vacant properties in Philly? We put together a little Q&A to help you out.

What exactly is the Philadelphia Land Bank?
It's essentially a tool that simplifies the process of transferring city-owned properties to private owners. It also has the ability to foreclose privately-owned vacant properties that could potentially be used to revitalize a neighborhood. The Land Bank is run by a board of real estate, development, and public policy professionals.

Why did Philly create the Land Bank?
Because the current system was complicated. Interested owners in publicly-owned vacant properties essentially had to jump through hoops to buy land and apply through various agencies. Now, private buyers can go to one source to find and purchase properties.

So it's basically a real estate listing website?
Kind of. Most of the properties you'll find via the Land Bank are either vacant or the buildings need significant repairs. And they're still working on showing what properties actually look like. For now, you can use their map of properties and check out the street view, prices, size, and zoning.

How many properties are currently in the Land Bank?
Yesterday the Land Bank received 150 properties from the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp, and 650 more properties are expected to follow by the end of the year. City Council also plans to transfer 833 city-owned properties to the Land Bank.

So will the Land Bank eventually receive all 8,700 vacant properties in Philly?
In an ideal world, yes. But one of the critiques of the Philadelphia Land Bank is that district Council members can veto land transfers in their section of the city, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

·Philadelphia Land Bank [Official]
·Philadelphia Land Bank gains first properties [PV]
·Phila. Land Bank now open for business [PI]
·Update: How to buy a vacant side yard for $1 (or less) [Curbed Philly]