On January 11, 2012, identical bills were introduced in both the New Jersey Assembly and Senate that would allow the state’s municipalities to designate certain existing entities to act as land banks to re-purpose abandoned properties and reduce blight. This proposal will give communities more control over underutilized properties and can be an essential tool in neighborhood revitalization efforts across the state.
The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Coutinho and Senator Ruiz. In the Assembly, it was referred to the Housing and Local Government Oversight Committee, and in the Senate, it was referred to the Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
As background, last winter, the Network began working with a variety of stakeholders to create strategies to address the increasing number of vacant and abandoned properties in the state. These properties have become a significant problem for some municipalities as they become places where dangerous activities are carried out or are treated as dumping sites.
After reviewing several methods cities could use to transform their neighborhoods, advocates agreed that land banks would be an approach worth exploring. Land banks are public or community owned entities created to acquire, manage, maintain, and repurpose vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed properties including homes, buildings and empty lots. Advocates believe that enacting land bank legislation would give municipalities another tool, though not a mandate, to address this problem and could make existing entities already managing vacant and abandoned properties more efficient and effective. In addition, it would allow municipalities to use these properties more positively such as increasing affordable housing for low income people. Approximately 75 communities across the country now operate formal land bank programs and New York State recently passed its own land bank bill.
“This proposal will give communities more control over underutilized areas and can be an essential tool in neighborhood revitalization efforts across the state,” said Arnold Cohen, policy coordinator for the Network.
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