[This guest blog is by Amy Hovey, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Capacity Building at the Center for Community Progress.]
At the Center for Community Progress, we’re sometimes thought of as “the land bank people.” Certainly, my boss, Dan Kildee, has a well-earned reputation as “the land bank guy.”
And, while there is much more to our work than just promoting land banks, I think people do sometimes lose sight of the incredible flexibility of land banking as a strategy for smart planning and economic development.
As many CEDAM members know, land banks — public entities that take control of problem properties and then can redevelop and/or dispose of them in a manner consistent with the public’s interest — are a key tool for cities and counties in dealing with blight. What you might not know, however, is that they are also helpful in strong market areas, as evidenced by their use across Michigan in areas experiencing very different economic circumstances.
Grand Traverse County, for example, has its own county land bank authority, despite being one of our state’s few areas of real population growth. Instead of dealing with long-vacant or blighted properties, their mission is to utilize tax-reverted properties, acquired properties and other resources in order to create affordable housing for the local workforce there.
What the folks in Grand Traverse have figured out is that no matter what economic conditions you currently face, land is the foundation upon which great places are built. So, it follows that land reform strategies are key to creating cities and towns that are livable enough to retain and employ their currents residents and economically vibrant enough to compete for the jobs and population of the future.
Of course, it is not always necessary to have a land bank in order to practice land banking as a resource management strategy. Other public and semi-public entities can be thoughtful, responsible stewards of real estate as well.
And, yes, there is more to our work than land banking. Consider yourselves forewarned: my next blog post will take on tax foreclosure reform!