Real Estate

Mayor Parker Aims to Reform Philadelphia Land Bank for 30,000 Housing Units

Mayor Parker aims to reform Philadelphia Land Bank to meet goal of 30,000 housing units, addressing inefficiencies and political interference.

By Tal Alexander

6/11, 15:03 EDT
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Key Takeaway

  • Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker aims to reform the Land Bank to meet her goal of 30,000 housing units.
  • The Land Bank has sold only 892 lots and created 992 homes in its first decade, with nearly 7,700 properties still under municipal ownership.
  • Issues include understaffing, lack of transparency, and City Council's control over land disposition; reforms are expected but details remain unclear.

Philadelphia Land Bank's Crucial Role

The Philadelphia Land Bank, an agency tasked with reactivating vacant land, is pivotal to the city administration's ambitious housing goals, as emphasized by an adviser to Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker. The Land Bank's mission is to acquire abandoned private land and repurpose vacant parcels, consolidating all publicly held land under one umbrella. However, the agency has faced significant challenges, including understaffing, lack of transparency, and political interference, which have hindered its effectiveness. Despite these issues, the Land Bank remains a cornerstone of Mayor Parker's vision to create 30,000 housing units, a goal that necessitates a functional and efficient Land Bank.

The Need for Reform

Since its inception in 2013, the Philadelphia Land Bank has struggled to meet its objectives, selling only 892 lots and facilitating the creation of 992 homes. With nearly 7,700 properties under municipal ownership yet to be processed, the potential for contributing to the mayor's housing goal is substantial. However, the agency's inefficiencies, such as outdated online maps and lack of regular progress reports, have stymied progress. Proposed reforms, though not yet detailed, are expected to address these issues and streamline the Land Bank's operations, making it a more effective tool for housing development in Philadelphia.

Broader Housing Market Dynamics

The challenges faced by the Philadelphia Land Bank are not unique. Cities across the U.S. are grappling with housing shortages and the need for innovative solutions. According to a report by Pacaso, metro areas like Washington, D.C., and Chicago are leading the "Yes in My Backyard" (YIMBY) movement, which promotes higher density and co-ownership models to increase housing supply. These cities have adopted land-use policies that allow for more diverse housing types, addressing the nationwide housing deficit, which Realtor.com estimates at 2.5 million homes. Philadelphia, listed among the top 10 YIMBY-friendly cities, can draw lessons from these examples to enhance its housing strategies.

My Perspective on the Land Bank's Future

The Philadelphia Land Bank's current state reflects a broader issue of municipal inefficiency and political entanglement in housing development. While the agency's potential is undeniable, realizing it requires substantial reform and a shift towards more transparent and streamlined processes. Drawing from the successes of YIMBY-friendly cities, Philadelphia can implement policies that encourage higher density and more efficient use of existing land. This approach, coupled with the proposed reforms, could transform the Land Bank into a vital pipeline for housing, aligning with Mayor Parker's ambitious goals and addressing the city's housing crisis.