abandoned properties: overview » introduction » manage acquisition

When acquiring and disposing of abandoned properties, communities have an opportunity to make strategic decisions and assemble properties for redevelopment as affordable homes or to meet other community development needs.

In communities with relatively few abandoned properties, decisions about property disposition may fit well with the work of existing departments. Other communities have initiated intensive vacant property reuse campaigns to coordinate the work of existing agencies. In communities where abandoned properties are a substantial problem, a new consolidated agency may be warranted. A growing number of communities have created a dedicated public authority, known as a land bank, to streamline property reuse activities, assemble developable parcels, and manage the redevelopment process to serve the community's goals. 

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Lion Creek Crossing

Photo credit: Cahill Contractors, Inc.
Create a land bank to manage property acquisition and disposition
A dedicated public authority, called a land bank, can facilitate abandoned property reuse by streamlining the process of property acquisition, management, and disposition while also allowing disposition to meet community development and affordable housing needs.

Launch an intensive vacant property reuse campaign
A focused campaign to reuse abandoned, vacant, and tax-delinquent properties has helped some communities to marshal the resources of existing agencies and local partners in acquiring and redeveloping abandoned properties to serve local needs.

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Manage the acquisition and disposition of abandoned properties as part of a comprehensive strategy
A coordinating body, such as a land bank, can be a useful tool for prioritizing communities' goals while effectively managing property acquisition and disposition.

Other pages in this section:

Foundry Square Reduce barriers to the reuse of abandoned properties

State and local governments can foster the reuse of abandoned properties by reducing lengthy tax foreclosure processes and allowing properties to leave foreclosure with a clear, marketable title.

Lion Creek CrossingUse abandoned, vacant, and tax-delinquent properties to create affordable homes
Although disinvested properties are often used for community economic development, using at least some properties to create affordable homes may benefit the community both now and in the long run.

Click here to view other resources on facilitating the reuse of abandoned, vacant, and tax-delinquent properties.

Create a land bank to manage property acquisition and disposition

A land bank is a governmental or quasi-governmental entity dedicated to converting vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties to productive use.  Without a land bank, the process of restoring, redeveloping, or demolishing abandoned properties may require the coordination of several government agencies and involve lengthy approval processes.  Delays in reusing properties can lead to a ripple effect of blight and increase the costs to communities. Land bank authorities address this problem by facilitating the acquisition of properties, holding and managing properties as needed, and disposing of properties in coordination with city planners and in accordance with local priorities for land use.

State legislation may be necessary to create a land bank, or enable local governments to do so. Land banks will also need to be given the acquisition and disposition powers needed to effectively and strategically reuse abandoned properties. In most cases, land banks acquire properties through tax foreclosures. Other forms of property acquisition can include voluntary conveyance by private owners or non-profit organizations, purchases of bank-owned (REO) properties, purchases of adjacent properties as needed, conveyances of surplus publicly-owned property, and eminent domain. Click here to leave this section and learn more about the use of public land for affordable homes.

Disposition policies and powers vary depending on community priorities. Some land banks hold and manage small properties to assemble into a developable parcel. Others dispose of properties as soon as possible after acquisition, even if the parcels are too small to hold more than a single home. Some policies prioritize the redevelopment of properties as affordable housing or to meet other local needs.

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about why communities may want to set aside some properties for conversion to affordable homes.

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Launch an intensive vacant property reuse campaign

Rather than create a new governmental or quasi-governmental entity, some communities have chosen to launch vacant property reuse campaigns using existing local agencies and community support. Intensive campaigns to reuse abandoned and vacant properties can boost local efforts to convert disinvested properties to affordable housing and other productive uses. However, these initiatives may face challenges if the existing landscape of property acquisition and disposition procedures is not conducive to fast action or to disposition to meet the community's affordable housing and community development priorities.

Solutions in Action
In 2002, Baltimore, Maryland launched a targeted abandoned property reuse campaign called Project 5000. The goal of Project 5000 was to acquire 5,000 abandoned properties throughout the city and restore them to productive use. The city developed partnerships with local law firms, title companies, and other businesses to reduce the costs of the campaign. In four years, the city acquired over 6,000 properties and disposed of 1,000 properties.

Although Project 5000 met its property acquisition goals, disposition of the properties has been challenging. According to a report by Baltimore Housing (the combined Housing Authority and Department of Housing and Community Development for Baltimore City), the city's current system for property disposition requires participation by not only Baltimore Housing but also the Comptroller's Real Estate office, the Space Utilization Committee, the Department of Finance, the Law Department, the City Council, and the Board of Estimates. To reduce duplication of effort in property dispositions and to facilitate the transfer of properties for reuse as affordable homes, the city is working on creating a land bank authority. (To leave this site and learn more about this effort, see A Plan to Create the Baltimore City Land Bank. [PDF] 2007. By Paul Graziano, Michael C. Bainum, and Kristin Dawson.)

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