Activists Wary of City's Land Bank Legislation

By Randy LoBasso
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 4 | Posted Mar. 6, 2012

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And she’s not alone. Neighbors in Flint, Mich., have complained of projects put into their land bank system, as well. Most notably the city’s Durant Hotel on East Second Avenue, had $30 million of taxpayer money put into it through the land bank and ended up being sold for $4 million. “There are no banks I know of that would have given that mortgage,” wrote real estate broker and Flint resident Henry Tannenbaum, in a February 2011 letter to The Flint Journal . “Taxpayers do not need more government control of the local housing stock, and taxpayers should not have to compete with their government in the purchase or rental of homes.”

“We absolutely believe the bill needs to be amended,” says Presley. “We think land is an asset that can be used to support the goals of strengthening low and moderate income communities … and I think the only way to fulfill those principles is to include a policy in the land bank ordinance that spells this out exclusively, that makes it clear and measurable.”

The Coalition has submitted language to Quiñones-Sánchez they believe would do this. She is open to the idea, but the bill has a long way to go before being signed into law. And recent developments may make residents think twice before letting it get pushed through as is.

Because, as Sawyer sees it, Kensington may have the most to lose from the deal. The neighborhood of West Kensington and the former “slumlord millionaire” Robert Coyle Sr., who was the subject of a Daily News investigation in 2009 and City Paper cover story in 2010, still lingers in the minds of residents.

“They [Coyle and his son] were able to run amok in Kensington and ruin a lot of people’s lives—well over 1,000 people,” says Sawyer. “And there is nothing in the Land Bank bill that prevents a renter like this, a bad actor who has no intention of redeveloping or improving the neighborhoods or, really, doing anything other than trying to make a fast buck.”

Coyle was finally charged on Friday with defrauding four banks out of $10 million in 2007.

Sawyer sent a letter to the Committee of Seventy expressing his concerns and has been attending community meetings in Port Richmond, Fishtown and Kensington, trying to get his questions answered. So far, he’s not satisfied.

Lang’s solution: “Try the simple method first … If there’s a property in North Philadelphia with $10,000 in back property taxes, well, seize it. Then let people buy it.”

If only it were that simple.

“The whole thing screams pay-to-play to me in multiple ways,” says Sawyer. “I do love the idea of a land bank. I know it’s been implemented in other cities … but the way machine politics work in Philadelphia, something good comes along and the city is ultimately determined to spend as much time fucking it up as it can.”

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Comments 1 - 4 of 4
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1. Anonymous said... on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:42AM

“agreed!!!! thank you for putting this info out there.”

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2. Dadair1 said... on Mar 7, 2012 at 08:11PM

“"According to Section 4 of the bill, City Councilmembers representing the district in which a vacant property will be transacted have final say. If that Councilmember sees any reason for disapproval, all s/he has to do is put it in writing and “the Land Bank may not enter into the transaction,” reads the legislation."
Do we really want to give this power to the City Council member's, remember how they jumped on the DROP wagon, with their greedy little hands!!!

Read more:”

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3. Anonymous said... on Mar 8, 2012 at 12:11AM

“the city is only here to help
it's the city's fault”

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4. Anonymous said... on Aug 19, 2012 at 07:08PM

“Please don't let this bill get passed allowing the pay to play option!! We need to put controls into law to stop the greed and corruption. It's crazy how we let our politicians abuse our resources as badly as they do. They are accountable to the citizens and need to be reminded of that!”


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