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Pennsylvania enacts land bank legislation co-drafted by Professor Alexander

Emory University School of Law |

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed the Land Bank Act, legislation informed by the research of Emory Law Professor Frank Alexander.

Land banks allow municipalities to acquire vacant and abandoned properties to enable their redevelopment and reuse.

“Once repurposed, properties typically return to the city’s tax rolls—important for cities struggling with lower revenues in the wake of the economic crisis,” according to a press release by the national Center for Community Progress.

Alexander is Sam Nunn Professor of Law and founding director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion. He was co-founder of the Center for Community Progress and now serves as a senior advisor.

Alexander was quoted extensively in The Philadelphia Inquirer’s 2011 series on the city’s more than 40,000 vacant properties—a quarter of which were city-owned. A 2010 report by the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority found that holding and maintaining those properties cost taxpayers $20 million annually.

Alexander and Sara Toering of Community Progress and attorney Leslie Powell drafted the legislation. For two years, Community Progress worked with Pennsylvania Rep. Chris Ross, who chairs the House Urban Affairs Committee; Rep. John Taylor, who headed the land bank legislation; and Sen. Gene Yaw, chair of the Senate’s Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, on best practices in land banking.

"It's a wonderful tool for Philadelphia," said Taylor, who represents part of Philadelphia County. "If you don't pay your taxes [now], nothing much happens. This will incentivize the city to move on properties quicker and ... dispose of them in a timely manner. You can change entire blocks at once now."

Alexander’s work has focused on property law, homelessness and affordable housing. He testified before Congress in 2008 and 2009 concerning the mortgage foreclosure crisis. He has helped several states and cities draft similar land bank legislation. His book, Land Banks and Land Banking, was published in 2011.

Related Links

The Center for Community Progress

Read the Philadelphia Daily News story on the legislation