Diverse Alliance Calls for Streamlined Vacant Property Disposition
Seeks Removal Amendment that Inserts Needless Bureaucracy into New Process
WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 11, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — Philadelphia took a significant step in its quest to fix its broken vacant property disposition system and create a single predictable, transparent and streamlined process for vacant property disposition. The Philly Land Bank Alliance is pleased that on October 28th Bill No. 130156 was reported out of the Committee on Public Property and Public Works of the City Council of Philadelphia. However, the bill was amended at the last minute to require three elected and appointed public bodies to approve the transfer of every one of the almost 10,000 parcels of the city’s publicly owned vacant property. This adds unnecessary time and bureaucracy and will discourage investment in Philadelphia. We urge Council to remove the last-minute amendment that requires approval by the Vacant Property Review Committee, in addition to a resolution in City Council and final action by the Land Bank.
The Vacant Property Review Committee (VPRC) is a 14-member committee that was created by City Council in 1977 to review proposed transactions for acquiring or disposing of vacant properties and preparing legislation for City Council authorization for such conveyances. The Land Bank Board, similarly made up of members appointed by the Administration and Council including community representatives, will now play that role rendering VPRC involvement in the Land Bank disposition process duplicative and unnecessary. The Land Bank will provide public notice on proposed dispositions, give the public opportunities for comment through an open, transparent process, and give community organizations influence through representation on the Land Bank Board. If Council believes that the composition or procedures of the VPRC offer a benefit that the Land Bank does not, the Alliance urges Council to add this feature to the Land Bank Board, rather than slowing down the system by adding another hurdle for applicants to overcome in order to gain approval to buy a lot.
The Land Bank bill had proposed a reconstituted VPRC made up of District Council members as an alternative to a City Council resolution. The Alliance had supported the reconstituted VPRC because it would give City Council members input in disposition decisions at an earlier stage in the process, before applicants incurred substantial time and costs. The Council Committee, however, subsequently approved an amendment that added the Council resolution in addition to the approval of the VPRC.
The amendments to Bill No. 130156 made in Committee would require a resident who seeks to buy the vacant blighted lot next door to be approved by Land Bank staff, the Vacant Property Review Committee, City Council and the Land Bank Board – a process that will involve the approval of more than 41 individuals and be lengthy, redundant and offer significant uncertainty. Requiring three separate public bodies to approve each property transfer will discourage, rather than encourage, rehabilitation of blighted properties.
This is a critical moment for Philadelphia to create an effective new Land Bank and a streamlined process to transfer vacant land. Our City is growing again for the first time in six decades. We need new policies to capitalize on this growth. This is the opportunity for City Council and the Administration to create a smart, effective Land Bank and Council approval process for the disposition of properties. The Alliance calls on City Council to pass a Land Bank bill that establishes a disposition system that requires decision making by two entities at most – first by City Council Resolution and, then, by the Land Bank Board – with all initial vetting, legal and administrative processes, and public outreach conducted by the Land Bank. Anything less is unjust to the Philadelphians who are saddled with vacant, blighted properties and the people who are doing the hard work of revitalizing our neighborhoods.
The Philly Land Bank Alliance represents a broad group of stakeholders from the non-profit and for-profit community in Philadelphia.
From the Philly Land Bank Alliance