November 21, 2014 [Macon Telegraph]
A national nonprofit focused on combating blight is highlighting work from the Macon-Bibb Land Bank Authority in its latest report on land banking.
The Center for Community Progress referred to Macon-Bibb as “The Conduit” for the work it does with a range of partners in revitalizing neighborhoods and providing affordable housing while preserving historic assets. Macon-Bibb was one of seven land banks featured in “Take it to the Bank: How Land Banks are Strengthening America’s Neighborhoods,” which was released Tuesday.
“We are a conduit,” said Alison Souther Goldey, director of the land bank. “We’re not the silver bullet — we are just part of it. It’s a little like you take an assembly line approach of taking properties that are under-utilized, and we are the conduit to make that happen.”
The land bank’s biggest power is the ability to forgive delinquent property taxes on land it acquires. This can mean new life for vacant or abandoned property where unpaid taxes might exceed the value of the property and make it a harder sell for redevelopment.
“We have a lot of tools that local government doesn’t have,” Goldey said. “For instance, we are a conduit to be able to acquire property … and transfer those properties out to responsible developers, whereas a local government will have to put those properties out to bid.”
Nationally, there are about 120 land banks, and Macon-Bibb is one of the oldest.
Founded in 1996, the land bank has focused its efforts in targeted neighborhoods and uses tax sales, donations and purchases to acquire property.
The Center for Community Progress report highlights Macon-Bibb’s efforts in Beall’s Hill, Lynmore Estates and the River Edge Behavioral Health Center development off Emery Highway.
“Our focus now is going to be joining efforts with Macon-Bibb County and our other partners such as Habitat (for Humanity) to work on the blight plan — to be a part of the blight task force,” Goldey said. “That is going to be our focus on the upcoming years. … There is no way you can effectively tackle blight without a land bank.”
The report also features land banks in Atlanta; Genesee County, Michigan; Cuyahoga County, Ohio; Syracuse, New York; Marquette County, Michigan; and Chautauqua County, New York.
“I am delighted because a lot of times when you hear about land banks, you hear about them being in a Detroit or Flint, Michigan … for them to feature the Macon-Bibb County Land Bank Authority actually shows that land banks can work in many different environments and many different sized cities,” Goldey said. “Land banks can be a benefit in any community.”