Delaware Bill Allows Land Banks to Acquire Vacant Properties - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Bill Allows Land Banks to Acquire Vacant Properties

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DOVER, Del. (AP/WBOC) - Democratic state lawmakers have introduced legislation making it easier for local governments to acquire and redevelop abandoned and vacant real estate.

The legislation, which will be the subject of a committee hearing on Wednesday, allows local governments to form "land banks" to acquire vacant and abandoned properties for targeted redevelopment.

The Delaware Neighborhood Conservation and Land Bank Act, proposed by Sen. Bryan Townsend, would allow local jurisdictions to form land banks if 3 percent of residential structures have been uninhabited for 6 months or more.

Using a combination of public funds, grants, private investment and property sale proceeds, Delaware's land banks would become a repository for vacant, tax-delinquent properties, according to Townsend.

"These abandoned properties, left unaddressed, create a host of problems for communities across our state," Townsend said. "They attract a criminal element, can become neighborhood eyesores and ultimately lead to depressed property values and a depleted tax base.

Supporters of the bill say blighted properties, like those that dot the landscape in Wilmington, can depress real estate values and the local tax base, while also serving as magnets for crime.

The legislation has the support of local officials in Wilmington and the city's entire delegation in the General Assembly.

"The proposed Land Bank legislation is the culmination of a year-long effort on the part of numerous stakeholders to more efficiently utilize limited financial resources," said Rep. Bryon Short, D-Brandywine, who chairs the House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance and Commerce Committee. "It will enable communities to address the problem of abandoned and blighted properties where the market has failed to do so. I look forward to this legislation working to strengthen communities throughout Delaware."

A press conference was held Monday in Wilmington to announce the bill, where several vacant and abandoned properties stand. While land banks would be available to communities across the state, officials say Wilmington stands to benefit significantly.

"Vacant and blighted housing in Wilmington negatively impacts the quality of life for city residents, decreases property values and is often connected to criminal activity," said Mayor Dennis P. Williams. "With the support of the Wilmington House and Senate delegation, we look to work towards creating a land bank that will hopefully eliminate the vacant properties and transform them into productive sites through private development and public use, in ways that will increase property values and protect communities."

Officials say the legislation has been assigned to the Senate Banking & Business Committee, which Sen. Townsend chairs. It will be discussed Wednesday at a 12:30 p.m. hearing in the Senate Hearing Room at Legislative Hall.
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