Land banks have a disposition problem. Land trusts have an acquisition problem.

A land bank is a public authority created to efficiently deal with vacant and abandoned properties. A land bank acquires, holds, manages, and disposes of these vacant properties on behalf of the municipality or government entity. Cities, counties, and states provide land banks with a variety of tools that ensure the land bank can properly deal with these nuisance properties. Land banks are often given unique legal powers that help them acquire problem properties and have the expertise to match redevelopment with the long-term interests of the community.

A land trust is a nonprofit corporation which acquires and manages land on behalf of the residents of a community. A land trust protects the use, condition, and affordability of properties under its control. Land trusts seek to create permanently affordable homes and also hold land for other community uses such as gardens, community centers, and local businesses.

In his article “The Untapped Potential of Land Bank/Land Trust Partnerships,” John Emmeus Davis discusses the opportunity for land banks and land trusts to partner together to ensure the best reuse of abandoned properties and how the organizations can complement each other.

Land banks often struggle to find a proper end user of the vacant and abandoned properties they acquire. Land bank properties are often left to the whim of the private market after the properties are auctioned off. In some cases, this means the property can either become unaffordable if the surrounding neighborhood dramatically improves, or conversely, may become derelict again if the neighborhood fails to revitalize.

Many community land trusts are inhibited by their ability to grow a substantial portfolio. Without substantial resources, these land trusts are not able to acquire a large amount of properties – thus limiting their impact. Once they do acquire a property, however, they are successful in achieving their mission of addressing the needs of a community.

To see an example of an organization working to create this kind of partnership, check out Philadelphia’s Take Back Vacant Land campaign.

Header Photo: Shane Wynn