Troy Graham has an update for us on the Philly land bank, and it looks like people are still unwisely trying to turn the bank into a vehicle for unrelated political goals:
Sauer said that a land bank would need to balance competing interests for market-rate and affordable housing, and commercial and green space, and that the process of acquiring and disposing of land “needs to be predictable, accountable, and transparent.”
He also said the land bank would need clear plans for swaths of vacant land, developed with the input of community groups and district City Council members.
The land bank also would need a governing board with a mix of expertise in housing issues, as well as community representation.
The land bank needs to do two things:
1. Acquire tax-delinquent and long-term vacant properties
2. Sell said properties at market prices
That’s it. The land bank should not be a venue to “balance competing interests” – that’s what electoral politics is for. It doesn’t need activists and City Council messing with land sales. It needs to acquire land, and sell land in a professional manner that, as Mr. Sauer says, is “predictable, accountable and transparent.”
If you want affordable housing, I strongly agree, but selling land at below-market rates isn’t going to do the trick. If you want more open space, then persuade your Council member to buy land at the market price to build a new park.
All these political concerns are things that need to be worked out after the land gets sold at market prices. Politicizing the process is just going to lead to too much land being kept off the market, too little new housing development, and corrupt politics as politicians try to shake down would-be land buyers for campaign contributions.