A joint informational meeting of the Senate Urban Affairs / House Urban Affairs Committees was held in Harrisburg to discuss land reform measures and land banking, according to Senate Committee Chairman Gene Yaw (R-23).

A land bank focuses on the conversion of vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties into productive use.

Testimony was given by Dan Kildee, co-founder and president of the Center for Community Progress. Mr. Kildee initiated the use of Michigan's new tax foreclosure law as a tool for community development and neighborhood stabilization. He founded the Genesee Land Bank, and a model for others in the nation – and serves as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. In 2007, Kildee's land bank program was named winner of the Harvard University/Fannie Mae Foundation Innovations in American Government Award for Affordable Housing.

"Like Michigan, communities across the state of Pennsylvania are struggling to cope with vacant, abandoned and tax delinquent properties," said Mr. Kildee. "Land banks are a unique tool that can be used by communities and municipalities to facilitate the return of problem properties to productive use."

Since its founding, the Genesee land bank has sold 1,600 properties and has raised $6.4 million through the sales, Kildee said. That fund has enabled the land bank to reconstruct dozens of single-family houses, sell hundreds of vacant lots to adjoining homeowners and create incentives for downtown redevelopment projects.

"Mr. Kildee's testimony provided a great deal of insight into the land banking process," said Sen. Yaw. "If Pennsylvania does not aggressively and comprehensively address the problems of blighted and abandoned properties plaguing many of our communities we will continue to see a decline in our housing infrastructure and face the negative impacts of lower property values and tax bases."

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