Reps. Kildee, Ferguson Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Land Banks Across America

Press Release

Date: June 16, 2020

Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus and Congressman Drew Ferguson (GA-03), Chief Deputy Whip of the House Republican Conference, introduced new bipartisan legislation to help strengthen neighborhoods, reduce crime and clean up blighted properties by expanding resources for land banks in communities across the U.S.

The legislation, H.R. 7103, The National Land Bank Network Act, would set up--through a national non-profit organization--a network to provide resources, technical assistance and grants for land banks to implement best practices, as well as help communities that are considering creating their own land banks to address blight. Lank banks already play an important role in addressing vacant and abandoned properties throughout the United States, whether in rural or urban neighborhoods. There are approximately 170 land banks already operating throughout the country at the municipal, county and state level.

The National Land Bank Network Act provides $10 million in funding to set up the non-profit network as well as to develop grant programs to support local land banks and communities. The bill also includes a $5 million annual authorization to support the network.

Vacant and abandoned properties destabilize neighborhoods, create fire and public safety hazards, drive down property values and drain local tax dollars. Oftentimes the cost of repairs to maintain such properties, as well as the potential unpaid taxes and public liens on such properties, exceed the actual property value--discouraging any potential purchasers. Low-income neighborhoods and communities of color that disproportionately bear the burden of living near these properties and the associated hazards, contributing to the cycle of poverty. In response to these challenges, land banks were developed to focus on the return of vacant, abandoned and tax delinquent properties to productive use. With so many land banks across the country at the state or local level, there is a need for the federal government to support their development through a nation network that provides access to best practices, research, technical assistance and other resources.

"Land banks have already helped many communities clean up blight, reduce crime and strengthen neighborhoods by increasing property values. Since I founded Michigan's first land bank in Genesee County, many other communities have also recognized the value of land banks to turn vacant properties into productive use. By creating a national network to provide resources, technical support and resources to land banks, we can help support economic development in communities across the country. I am pleased to introduce this legislation, which represents a bipartisan and common-sense way we can support our communities," said Congressman Kildee.

"As former mayors that understand the potential of land banks, I'm proud to introduce this legislation with Congressman Kildee. Land banks can benefit all our communities and help foster economic development in rural areas, which has been a focus of mine as a Member of Congress," said Congressman Ferguson.

"Land banks are an important tool to support the development of affordable homes and other vital community investments. Many local Habitat organizations across the country effectively partner with land banks to develop unused and abandoned properties to further neighborhood recovery and provide safe, decent and affordable homes. Investments in land banks now will pay enormous dividends for communities across the country as they recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Habitat for Humanity applauds Reps. Kildee and Ferguson for introducing the National Lank Bank Network Act," said Chris Vincent, Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy for Habitat for Humanity.

"Land banks are a critical tool for rebuilding communities and reimagining vacant spaces. This bill recognizes the importance of the growing land bank movement, its power to advance racial equity, and the national need for federal resources to uplift and connect the diverse field. The urgency of this investment comes at an inflection point, as local leaders around the country confront the future economic impact of COVID-19 on their neighborhoods. We would like to thank Rep. Kildee and Rep. Ferguson for their vision and stand ready to support land banks in their important work," said Dr. Akilah Watkins-Butler, President and CEO of Community Progress.

"Far too many low-income communities have high rates of abandoned and vacant housing, which creates blight and destabilizes neighborhoods. The covid-19 pandemic may make this problem worse and its impacts are being disproportionately felt in poor neighborhoods. Land banks are an effective response strategy since they acquire abandoned properties and bring them back to productive uses, including for sorely needed affordable housing. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation applauds Rep. Kildee and Rep. Ferguson for recognizing the need for federal resources to scale the land bank movement's response efforts," said Matthew Josephs, Senior Vice President, Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

The legislation is endorsed by Habitat for Humanity International, Center for Community Progress, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Smart Growth America, National Community Stabilization Trust, Grounded Solutions Network, National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the Georgia Association of Land Bank Authorities, the Michigan Land Bank Association, the State of Michigan Land Bank Authority, the New York Land Bank Association, and the Ohio Land Bank Association.

Congressman Kildee has an extensive background in housing policy and land use issues. In 2002, as Genesee County Treasurer, he founded the Genesee County Land Bank--Michigan's first land bank--and served as its Chairman from 2002 until 2009. The Genesee County Land Bank, which continues to help stabilize neighborhoods and redevelop abandoned properties in Michigan, is responsible for over $100 million in redevelopment in Flint. Congressman Kildee's successful land bank model has helped to inspire 170 other communities to start similar models to help create opportunity and foster development.