Architects, urban planners, engineers, and residents realize that Detroit isn't actually shrinking. The physical boundaries still exist, but, in many areas of the city, the density has been significantly reduced and the vacancy rates increased. Fortunately, land banks can be an effective way to manage this underutilized space and generate tax revenue.
According to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), "land banks are governmental or nongovernmental nonprofit entities that focus on the conversion of vacant, abandoned properties into productive uses." Land banks are financial mechanisms, which offer place-based incentives for development, as well as a long-term community development tool for urban planners.
Abandoned and foreclosed lots often give a bad image to the city, decreasing adjacent property values, attracting crime, and interrupting public services. In order to provide, maintain, and grow, cities depend on taxes, and abandoned land costs the city, rather than providing revenue for it. In 2004, then Michigan Governor Granholm signed into law the Land Bank Fast Track Legislation, Public Act (PA) 258, in order to expedite the legal process already on the books (PA 123).
The concept of land banking took off in Genesee County, Michigan in 2002 and has since established ten unique programs:
- Planning and Outreach;
- Brownfield Redevelopment;
- Clean and Green;
- Housing Renovation;
- Side Lot Transfer;
- and Foreclosure Prevention.
The Genesee County Land Bank Authority has enabled the "re-use of more than 4,000 residential, commercial, and industrial properties" since its conception and provides a great model for Detroit to follow.
A 2010 article, The Incredible Shrinking American City: What Dan Kildee wants America to learn from the sorry tale of Flint, Mich., tells the narrative of the Genesee County Lank Bank and why it's so important to our automotive cities. There are land bank critics, every community has to forge their own path. According to Kildee, land banks "should be focused on transformative, catalytic policies."
The Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) is one of eight land banks in the state of Michigan federally-funded through Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) grant, managed by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). "Restoring Community. One Household at a Time," DLBA has several projects in progress.
With a sustainable and people-first mission, DLBA aims to:
- Hire local developers and contractors to rehabilitate vacant houses;
- Create multifamily housing opportunities;
- Remove blight from Detroit neighborhoods.
Challenges and opportunities intertwined. Does your community utilize land banking?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.