On May 5, the Delaware Housing Coalition (DHC), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, held its annual Day for Housing, an opportunity for DHC’s membership and affordable housing advocates from across the state to meet and engage on public policy issues. This year, the Day for Housing featured a discussion on land banking, specifically around Delaware Senate Bill 66 (SB 66), the” Delaware Neighborhood Conservation and Land Bank Act.” Senator Bryan Townsend (D) introduced SB 66 on April 22, and the Senate passed it on May 14. The bill is now on its way to the state’s House of Representatives where Representative Bryon Short (D) is the lead sponsor.
Land banks are a mechanism for local governments to acquire and redevelop vacant, abandoned real estate. SB 66 would allow local jurisdictions to form land banks when 3% of residential structures have been uninhabited for six months or longer and are abandoned by their owners because of unpaid property taxes or substantial liens arising from property code violations. Local governments or two or more local governments with an intergovernmental agreement could create a nonprofit land bank that would be a repository for tax-delinquent vacant, abandoned properties. A land bank would purchase liens from the local jurisdiction or acquire properties at a sheriff’s sale on credit from the local jurisdiction.
At Day for Housing, special guest speaker Garret O’Dwyer of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC) discussed the recent successful campaign to create the Philadelphia Land Bank. PACDC and the Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land (TBVL) participated in the Philly Land Bank Alliance, which worked for the creation of an effective land bank in Philadelphia. In March, Philadelphia’s TBVL received NLIHC’s 2015 State and Local Organizing Award for their role in the effort (see Memo, 2/17/15).
At the Day for Housing, DHC’s Executive Director Trish Kelleher said, “there was a spirited back and forth about land banking between the speaker, the audience, and Senator Townsend and Representative Short. Concern was expressed that the process was moving too quickly and that not enough opportunity had been given for community input. Others voiced their relief that such a mechanism is in the works to alleviate blight in many of Delaware’s neighborhoods and to eliminate onerous fees and fines. It was a productive dialogue.”
Mr. O’Dwyer also participated in a panel discussion about the link between affordable housing and community development. Other panel members included Karen Speakman of Revitalizing Downtown Dover, the Reverend Terrence Keeling of the Central Baptist Community Development Coalition, and Faye Blake of the Sussex Unity coalition. The panelists talked about the positive impact of coordinated community development aimed at locating affordable housing in areas of opportunity that is taking place in each of Delaware’s three very diverse counties.
“The chance to bring advocates, funders, legislators, and residents together always guarantees a lively and interesting exchange of ideas and paves the way for solutions and new partnerships,” Ms. Kelleher said of the Day for Housing. “Delaware is small and we pride ourselves on our ability to build alliances and change the status quo. We’re already looking forward to next year!”
For more information, contact Trish Kelleher, Executive Director, Delaware Housing Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org.