Does brownfields revitalization define the 4th generation of land banks?

Brownfield properties often sit idle for years without investment, cleanup, or redevelopment.

These blighted properties are not active in the real estate market because the costs associated with cleaning and redeveloping them are not economically viable.

While local governments would benefit in many ways from redeveloping brownfields, they are often reluctant to take title to these properties because of legal liability concerns. Furthermore, substantial remediation and development costs often exceed the value of the property, leaving them in or near “negative value situations.”

The ability of municipalities to remediate contaminated sites and redevelop areas abandoned by the private market is also hampered by a lack of resources and austerity budgets at the state and national levels.

Many communities that are operating in broken real estate markets and struggling with vacancy and blight have turned to land banking as a revitalization strategy.

This article summarizes the emerging juncture of land banks as a brownfields revitalization tool by reviewing the following initiatives: 1) the non-profit Connecticut Brownfield Land Bank; 2) the Suffolk County Landbank Corporation on Long Island, New York; and 3) the recently passed Oregon Brownfields Land Bank Bill (HB 2734).

In doing so, the article will identify unique strategies, common themes, and barriers in order to make the case that land banks focusing on brownfields revitalization are becoming the “fourth generation” of the land bank movement.

The article concludes with some policy recommendations that should be incorporated into statewide land bank enabling legislation to ensure land banks become an effective tool for redeveloping brownfield sites.

[Photo credit: Connecticut Brownfield Land Bank]

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