Sens Casey, Capito look to tackle blight on federal level by funding “land banks”, grants for redevelopment

22 April 2024- U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) have announced that they have introduced the Neighborhood Revitalization and Land Banking Act to help public land banks acquire blighted properties which can then be repurposed for commercial, residential, or recreational use that improves the quality of living in communities and local economies across the United States. This bill would additionally invest in increasing expertise and research in the field of land banking through the Blighted Property Remediation Fellowship Program. 

“Land banks help turn blighted properties into community assets by stepping in to acquire and repurpose the vacant or deteriorating properties that too often stand in the way of neighborhood revitalization,” said Senator Casey. “The Neighborhood Revitalization and Land Banking Act will invest in the land banks dedicating their services to rehabilitating blighted and vacant land, making it easier for communities to maximize their potential while creating a cleaner, safer place to live.”

“Removal of blighted, vacant, and abandoned properties is an important step in community revitalization efforts, and land banks serve a critical role in acquiring and encouraging reuse and redevelopment of these properties,” Senator Capito said. “I’m proud to introduce the Neighborhood Revitalization and Land Banking Act, which will play a key role in helping continue the success of land banks in West Virginia.”

The Neighborhood Revitalization and Land Banking Act would:

  • Support community planning by investing in local property condition data. The proposed bill would establish a new grant program for land banks and other eligible entities to receive $10,000 annually to support their efforts monitoring property conditions and developing a database for tracking vacant properties. Enabling land banks to map blighted properties in their communities can help them attain a better grasp of the scale of the work needed in their neighborhoods, develop a community revitalization plan, and outline the need case for establishing a land bank in jurisdictions that currently lack one.
  • Establish grants for revitalization planning and implementation. The bill would establish a planning grant to aid land banks in creating a list of blighted properties to target for revitalization, as well as establish an implementation grant provided to the land banks to implement these revitalization plans over a 5-year period, including through efforts such as property maintenance, site preparation, remediation, property acquisition and disposition, demolition, deconstruction, and property rehabilitation.
  • Create a Blighted Property Remediation Fellowship Program. This fellowship program would advance the land banking field through research and the development of expertise within the workforce.
  • Provide direct support to new or under resourced land banks: The legislation would also establish a system through which land banks could receive technical assistance from subject matter experts as they develop strategies to revitalize their communities.

Land banks have been rapidly growing as an economic development tool over the last decade, with over 300 land banks located throughout the country, including more than 35 in Pennsylvania. However, these land banks often suffer from a lack of funding and resources. The Neighborhood Revitalization and Land Banking Act will create new federal grant programs under the Department of Housing and Urban Development for land banks to utilize as they work to revitalize communities.