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 level1, 2, 3. Land banks vary in size, managing as few as 10 to over 2,000 parcels a year2.
Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)
Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes
Improved neighborhood quality
Increased neighborhood socio-economic diversity
Increased access to affordable housing
Improved sense of community
Reduced food insecurity
Evidence of Effectiveness
There is some evidence that land banking reduces blight by demolishing deteriorated or unsafe structures, reducing property vacancies, and maintaining vacant lots2, 4, 5, 6. Land banking is also a suggested strategy to revitalize declining urban neighborhoods, improve community development7, 8, and develop economically integrated communities9, 10. Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects and determine the characteristics, size, and scale of the most effective efforts3, 8.
Cities with many vacant lots or abandoned properties can benefit from land banks6, 8. In Cleveland and Detroit, demolitions to reduce blight are associated with increased home equity and property values in the surrounding neighborhood11. Land banks can stabilize property values in declining areas, increase revenue4, 5, 12, 13, and reduce maintenance costs for local governments4, 8. Land banks can also increase affordable housing opportunities, green space, and community gardens2, 3, 8.
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 needs1, 2, 4. Land banks can partner with local community land trusts (CLTs) to support affordable housing14. Using side lot programs to sell vacant lots to owners of adjacent properties at a reduced rate can help land banks engage local buyers and expedite the property’s return to productive use3; productive uses can include food production through urban agriculture and greening strategies to reduce food insecurity and food deserts, and to improve well-being of local residents11, 15. Community-based property maintenance programs that depend on local volunteers or paid partners can support local economic development and volunteer opportunities2, and may have positive spillover effects for neighboring properties, including increases in local property maintenance, neighborhood pride, and youth engagement6, 11.
Land bank acquisition can be an alternative to selling problem properties at auction; land bank acquisitions are associated with greater levels of community development13.
Impact on Disparities
As of May 2019, 25 states have land banks and 11 states have comprehensive legislation that support land banks: Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Delaware16.
As of January 2018, there are approximately 170 land banking initiatives across the country17. Many initiatives are multi-faceted. For example, Michigan’s Genesee County Land Bank Authority (GCLBA), the largest operating land bank in the US, owns nearly 14,000 properties as of 201918. GCLBA also runs a competitive grant process for community groups to maintain lots in exchange for a stipend through its Clean and Green Program19; Clean and Green’s more than 1,100 volunteers, including 700 youth volunteers, maintain 3,700 vacant lots and have planted 23 food and flower gardens in and around Flint, MI20. 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 properties21. The Land Bank of Kansas City, MO, based on the GCLBA and Cuyahoga County models, transitions vacant, blighted, and abandoned properties into opportunities for community improvement, economic development, as well as greening and gardening initiatives22.
The Detroit Land Bank Authority’s community partnerships connect with faith and community-based organizations in its efforts and in Syracuse, NY, land banks use recyclable housing material from demolitions23, 24.
US HUD-NSP land bank toolkit - US Department of Housing and Urban Development (US HUD), HUD Exchange, Neighborhood Stabilization Program. NSP land banking toolkit.
CCP-Land bank headquarters - Center for Community Progress (CCP). Land bank information headquarters: Resources, publications, and toolkit.
ChangeLab-Housing toolkit - ChangeLab Solutions. Preserving, protecting, and expanding affordable housing: A policy toolkit for public health. 2015.
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.
LHS - Local Housing Solutions (LHS). To enhance local affordability and foster inclusive communities. New York University, Furman Center and Abt Associates, Inc.
Shelterforce-Land banks - Shelterforce: The voice of community development. How to fund land banks; 2018.
LHS-COVID-19 response - Local Housing Solutions (LHS), NYU Furman Center, Abt Associates. Housing issues: COVID-19.
* Journal subscription may be required for access.
1 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?
2 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.
3 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.
4 NYLBA 2014 - New York Land Bank Association (NYLBA). New York State Land Banks: Combating blight and vacancy in New York Communities. 2014.
5 Whitaker 2014 - Whitaker S, Fitzpatrick TJ. Land bank 2.0: An empirical evaluation. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Working Paper No. 12-30r. 2014.
6 Sadler 2017* - Sadler RC, Pruett NK. Mitigating blight and building community pride in a legacy city: Lessons learned from a land bank’s clean and green programme. Community Development Journal. 2017;52(4):591-610.
7 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; 2009.
8 CCP-Alexander 2015* - Alexander FS. Land banks and land banking, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: Center for Community Progress (CCP); 2015.
9 Brookings-Alexander 2008 - Alexander FS. Land banking as metropolitan policy. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution; 2008.
10 Fitzpatrick 2009 - Fitzpatrick TJ. Understanding Ohio’s land bank legislation. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Policy Discussion Papers. 2009: Policy Discussion Paper No. 25.
11 Urban-de Leon 2017 - De Leon E, Schilling J. Urban blight and public health: Addressing the impact of substandard housing, abandoned buildings, and vacant lots. Washington, DC: Urban Institute; 2017.
12 Keating 2013* - Keating WD. Urban land banks and the housing foreclosure and abandonment crisis. Saint Louis University Public Law Review; 2013.
13 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.
14 Fujii 2016* - Fujii Y. Putting the pieces together: How collaboration between land banks and community land trusts can promote affordable housing in distressed neighborhoods. Cities. 2016;56:1-8.
15 Carlet 2017* - Carlet F, Schilling J, Heckert M. Greening US legacy cities: Urban agriculture as a strategy for reclaiming vacant land. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. 2017;41(8):887-906.
16 CCP-Land bank map - Center for Community Progress (CCP). National map of land banks & land banking programs.
17 CCP-Land banking FAQ - Center for Community Progress (CCP). Frequently asked questions on land banking.
18 GCLBA - Genesee County Land Bank, Michigan. Eliminating blight, enhancing neighborhoods, strengthening communities.
19 GCLB-Clean & green - Genesee County Land Bank (GCLB). Clean & Green Program: maintains and beautifies vacant properties.
20 GCLBA-2018 review - Genesee County Land Bank, Michigan. Genesee County Land Bank 2018 annual review.
21 Cuyahoga Land Bank - Cuyahoga Land Bank. Returns vacant and abandoned foreclosed properties to productive use.
22 Land Bank of Kansas City - Land Bank of Kansas City, MO. Welcome to the land bank.
23 DLBA - Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA). Community partnership.
24 Syracuse land bank - Greater Syracuse Land Bank. The land bank returns vacant, abandoned, and underutilized properties to productive use.
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