Land Banks Should Be Part of State Policy on Blight, Advocates Tell Legislators


Assembly committee hosts hearing on vacant and abandoned properties

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 27, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Policy experts, non-profit developers and municipal leaders presented testimony today to members of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on efforts to revitalize vacant and abandoned properties. Testifiers offered insight on the positive effects the Abandon Properties Rehabilitation Act (APRA) has had on transforming NJ communities and offered feedback to legislators on areas for improvement.

“Newark, like many urban areas in New Jersey, has long suffered from disinvestment, underdevelopment, and high crime,” said the Honorable Ras J. Baraka, mayor of the City of Newark. “Our city has been a leader in efforts to reverse this trend, pioneering the use of the Abandoned Properties Ordinance. By reclaiming abandoned properties from owners that show no interest in developing them, we can increase home ownership opportunities for our residents and make Newark an even better place to live and work. We thank the Legislature for enacting APRA which allows us to do this work, and we urge this committee to pass the Land Bank bill which can help cities like Newark move forward with these efforts.”

“This legislation has allowed Bridgeton to be aggressive in terms of public safety by ensuring vacant properties are properly boarded and secured,” said the Honorable Albert Kelly, mayor of the City of Bridgeton. “The tools available under APRA go directly to issues of neighborhood stability and quality of life.”

A bill that would allow municipalities to acquire and maintain vacant and abandoned properties so they can be redeveloped or reused for long-term community benefit is currently before the Assembly for consideration. Under the bill, NJ towns could designate redevelopment entities (redevelopment authorities, housing authorities or county improvement authorities) and non-profits to act as a land bank on behalf of the municipality. The town could convey city-owned properties to that entity, which could also acquire properties for the land bank through gift or purchase, and could act as the municipality’s agent to carry out lien foreclosures and spot blight takings.

In 2008, in response to its own foreclosure crisis, the State of Ohio passed legislation creating Ohio’s first county land bank which later expanded to other counties. Lavea Brachman, executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center which championed the land bank legislation in their state, testified before the Assembly Committee on Ohio’s experience with land banks.

“Similar to New Jersey, Ohio’s cities have been hit hard by urban blight and decline, experiencing some of the highest foreclosure and vacancy rates in the country,” said Brachman. “While Ohio communities have a long way to go to return to economic and physical health, many cities and counties are actively leveraging their land banks’ capabilities, demonstrating that well-intentioned state policy interventions in combination with local capacity and oversight can work in tandem with market operations. They are working so well that there is currently a proposal to expand them further.”

“Reclaiming the eye-sores and budget busters that are our state’s problem properties can help restore economic vitality, increase wealth and bring revenue to our communities,” said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ. “APRA tools and related policies have allowed municipal officials to take control of these properties and return them to productive use. The Legislature can help expand on those successful efforts by passing the land bank bill which will further empower communities to tackle problem properties.”

Also testifying before the Committee today were Annette Muhammad, director of redevelopment for the City of Newark; Alan Mallach, senior fellow for the Center for Community Progress; Dwight Saunders, director of property maintenance for the City of East Orange; Martin Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Isles, Inc.; Jeffrey Crum, director of real estate for the Community Asset Preservation Corporation; Curt Macysyn, director of the Camden Community Development Association; Alle Ries, director of community and economic development for La Casa de Don Pedro; and John Restrepo, director of housing and community development for Garden State Episcopal Development Corporation.

About the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ
The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey is the statewide association of more than 250 community development corporations, individuals and other organizations that support the creation of affordable homes, economic opportunities, and strong communities. For more information on the Network, visit

For more information: Nina Arce
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