KC needs a land bank
The Kansas City Star
The City Council should move quickly to pass an ordinance creating a new agency called a land bank, an entity that could prove to be a significant player in the effort to deal with Kansas City’s massive vacant-property problem.
Earlier this year, the Missouri legislature passed a law allowing the city to create its own land bank. The agency could buy and sell unwanted properties, thus moving them onto the tax rolls and reducing the city’s annual maintenance and lawn-mowing cost.
The larger goal is to begin reducing the number of vacant, derelict structures that blight neighborhoods, especially in the inner city.
The process of gearing up for the creation of a land bank has already begun. Several hundred properties have been transferred from Jackson County Land Trust to the city, with up to 4,000 more to be transferred over the coming months. Once the City Council approves a land bank ordinance the properties will be transferred to the new agency.
Unlike the Jackson County Land Trust, the city’s land bank would have significant revenue sources, including proceeds from real estate sales as well as the first three years of property taxes paid by the new owners. That revenue stream will eventually allow the bank to issue bonds.
David Park, deputy director of the Neighborhoods and and Housing Services Department, said that at some point, the land bank might also be empowered to finance mortgages for buyers as well as make loans to pay for property renovation. If so, the city must build in safeguards to ensure that loans go to borrowers with acceptable credit quality.
If the land bank’s efforts are strategically targeted rather than applied on a scattershot basis, the new agency could make a real difference in many inner-city neighborhoods. But first, the City Council must act.