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An overview of the Philadelphia land bank

After years of delay and much talk, the Philadelphia Land Bank finally opened for business on Dec. 9, 2015 with the electronic conveyance by the city of 150 properties previously owned by the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. The land bank was originally proposed in 2013 as a means of simplifying the process of transferring vacant tax forfeit property to developers for commercial real estate development.

The Land Bank is intended to expedite the process of redeveloping vacant or run-down properties that were acquired by the City when the land became tax forfeit. The bank will hold title to the properties until a developer submits an offer to buy a particular parcel. The agency will keep an on-line inventory of all parcels that are available for purchase. When an interested party finds a parcel, it must submit an application, called an Expression of Interest, to the land bank.

The bank will review the EOI to determine if the prospective purchaser is current on city taxes and meets the agency's other criteria. The staff will also check with other city agencies to determine if the proposed development use is consistent with the plans of those departments. The City Council must pass a resolution approving each sale, and the Bank recommends that an interested purchaser contact the District Councilperson in whose district the property is located.

While the bank is intended to provide an expeditious method for transfer ownership of vacant land, anyone interested in submitting an EOI may wish to confer with an experienced real estate attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide assistance in documenting the transfer, dealing with the land bank and other city agencies concerning the redevelopment plan and generally smoothing the path for the purchase and redevelopment of the parcel.

Source: Philadelphia Land Bank, "How to Buy Land," accessed on Dec. 13, 2015

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