Land banking

Land banks acquire, hold, manage, and develop problem properties such as vacant lots, abandoned buildings, or foreclosures and transition them to productive uses such as affordable housing developments, community-focused commercial buildings, community gardens, or green spaces. Land banks can also demolish abandoned or unsafe buildings. State and local governments can support land banks by allowing low or no cost purchases of tax foreclosures, clearing titles and/or forgiving back taxes, holding land tax free, or negotiating property transfers that address community needs. Land banks are generally governmental entities created and managed at the local or regional level (US HUD-NSP Land banking 101, CCP-Heins 2014, Negro 2012). Land banks vary in size, managing as few as 10 to over 2,000 parcels a year (CCP-Heins 2014). 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced blight

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Improved neighborhood quality

  • Increased neighborhood socio-economic diversity

  • Increased access to affordable housing

  • Improved sense of community

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that land banking reduces blight by demolishing deteriorated or unsafe structures, reducing property vacancies, and maintaining vacant lots (CCP-Heins 2014, NYLBA 2014, Whitaker 2014). Land banking is also a suggested strategy to revitalize declining urban neighborhoods, improve community development (US HUD-Sage Computing 2009, ), and develop economically integrated communities (Brookings-Alexander 2008, Fitzpatrick 2009). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects and determine the characteristics, size, and scale of the most effective efforts (Negro 2012, ).

Cities with many vacant lots or abandoned properties can benefit from land banks (). Land banks can stabilize property values in declining areas, increase revenue (Whitaker 2014, NYLBA 2014, , ), and reduce maintenance costs for local governments (, NYLBA 2014). Land banks can also increase affordable housing opportunities, green space, and community gardens (CCP-Heins 2014, , Negro 2012).

Partnering with other area programs that address blight and engaging with community members through neighborhood meetings or a formal community advisory board can increase the likelihood that land bank efforts will meet community needs (CCP-Heins 2014, NYLBA 2014, US HUD-NSP Land banking 101). Using side lot programs to sell vacant lots to owners of adjacent properties at a reduced rate can help land trusts engage local buyers and expedite the property’s return to productive use (Negro 2012). Community-based property maintenance programs that depend on local volunteers or paid partners can support local economic development and volunteer opportunities (CCP-Heins 2014).

Land bank acquisition can be an alternative to selling problem properties at auction; land bank acquisitions are associated with greater levels of community development ().

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

Eleven states have legislation that supports land banks as of 2015: Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Delaware (CCP-Land bank map).

There are approximately 120 land banking initiatives across the country (). Many initiatives are multi-faceted. Michigan’s Genesee County Land Bank Authority (GCLBA), the largest operating land bank in the US, for example, held over 11,000 properties in 2013 (CCP-Heins 2014); it also runs a competitive grant process for community groups to maintain lots in exchange for a stipend through its Clean and Green Program (Array). Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s land bank provides homes to immigrants, wounded war veterans, and artists, allows vacant lots to be used as community gardens, and partners with the justice system to maintain land bank-owned properties (Cuyahoga Land Bank, ).

The Detroit Land Bank Authority’s Community Partner Program connects faith and community-based organizations in its efforts and in Syracuse, NY, land banks use recyclable housing material from demolitions (DLBA, Syracuse land bank). 

Implementation Resources

GLEFC-O’Brien 2005 - O’Brien KE, Toth K. Best practices in land bank operation. Cleveland: Great Lakes Environmental Finance Center (GLEFC), Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs Cleveland State University; 2005.

CCP-Land bank headquarters - Center for Community Progress (CCP). Land bank information headquarters: Resources, publications, and toolkit.

US HUD-NSP land bank toolkit - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD), HUD Exchange, Neighborhood Stabilization Program. NSP land banking toolkit.

ChangeLab-Housing toolkit 2015 - ChangeLab Solutions. Preserving, protecting, and expanding affordable housing: A policy toolkit for public health. 2015.

RSP-Land banks - Right-Sized Places (RSP). Land Banks in Pennsylvania: A handbook for counties and municipalities.

WRLC-Land bank - Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC). Land bank playbook: a tool to plan, establish, and operate county land banks in Ohio.

LISC-Affordable housing - Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). Helping neighbors build communities: Affordable housing.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

US HUD-Sage Computing 2009 - Sage Computing, Inc. Revitalizing foreclosed properties with land banks. Washington, DC: US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD), Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R); 2009.

Brookings-Alexander 2008 - Alexander FS. Land banking as metropolitan policy. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution; 2008.

Fitzpatrick 2009 - Fitzpatrick TJ. Understanding Ohio’s land bank legislation. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Policy Discussion Papers. 2009: Policy Discussion Paper No. 25.

CCP-Alexander 2015* - Alexander FS. Land banks and land banking, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: Center for Community Progress (CCP); 2015.

Negro 2012 - Negro SE. You can take it to the bank: The role of land banking in dealing with distressed properties. Zoning and Planning Law Report. 2012;35(9):1-12.

Whitaker 2014 - Whitaker S, Fitzpatrick TJ. Land bank 2.0: An empirical evaluation. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Working Paper No. 12-30r. 2014.

Keating 2013* - Keating WD. Urban land banks and the housing foreclosure and abandonment crisis. Saint Louis University Public Law Review; 2013.

Dewar 2015* - Dewar M. Reuse of abandoned property in Detroit and Flint: impacts of different types of sales. Journal of Planning Education and Research. 2015:1-22.

CCP-Heins 2014 - Heins P, Abdelazim T. Take it to the bank: How land banks are strengthening America's neighborhoods. Center for Community Progress: Vacant Spaces into Vibrant Places (CCP). 2014.

US HUD-NSP Land banking 101 - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD). Neighborhood Stabilization Project (NSP). Land Banking 101: What is a land bank?

NYLBA 2014 - New York Land Bank Association (NYLBA). New York State Land Banks: Combating blight and vacancy in New York Communities. 2014.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

CCP-Alexander 2015* - Alexander FS. Land banks and land banking, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: Center for Community Progress (CCP); 2015.

CCP-Land bank map - Center for Community Progress (CCP). National map of land banks & land banking programs.

Syracuse land bank - Greater Syracuse Land Bank. The land bank returns vacant, abandoned, and underutilized properties to productive use.

Keating 2013* - Keating WD. Urban land banks and the housing foreclosure and abandonment crisis. Saint Louis University Public Law Review; 2013.

CCP-Heins 2014 - Heins P, Abdelazim T. Take it to the bank: How land banks are strengthening America's neighborhoods. Center for Community Progress: Vacant Spaces into Vibrant Places (CCP). 2014.

DLBA - Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA). Building Detroit: Community Partnership Program.

Cuyahoga Land Bank - Cuyahoga Land Bank. Returns vacant and abandoned foreclosed properties to productive use.

GCLB-Clean & green - Genesee County Land Bank (GCLB). Clean & Green Program: maintains and beautifies vacant properties.

Date Last Updated

Jul 27, 2016