Ignoring 40 Years Of Failure, Legislature Passes Land Bank Legislation
Yesterday, the Missouri Legislature passed House Bill 1659, which allows for the creation of a land bank in Kansas City.
This land bank, if Kansas City officials decide to create it, will have the power to bid against private buyers for vacant property, make expensive development bets, and have the ability to turn down offers from would-be buyers for arbitrary reasons.
We already know that land banking can have disastrous consequences. In my review of the Saint Louis land bank, also known as the Land Reutilization Authority (LRA), I found that the LRA rejected almost half of all formal offers it considered, and allows local officials to have substantial and inappropriate power over who can buy land bank property.
Other land banks in other states do this as well. Consider this Michigan Ingham County Land Bank rejection: An offer to purchase vacant property from the land bank was rejected because “. . . the [land bank] wants to have a home on the vacant property.”
I still do not understand why Missouri legislators want to follow the 40-year history of the LRA. Saint Louis’ land bank began its life with about 2,000 parcels, and now has amassed more than 10,000 parcels of vacant property. The land bank that the Kansas City legislation hopes to replicate also continues to amass vacant property, and helps funnel tax subsidies to private developers. Where exactly is the land banking success that Kansas City hopes to replicate?
During discussion of an amendment that was added to the land bank bill yesterday, the Senate sponsor stated: “Might be a terrible idea. But two years from now they can address that problem.”
I hope so, but I am skeptical. Our legislature passed land banking legislation for Saint Louis in 1971, and it has been an abysmal failure. Instead of addressing that problem, legislators passed a similar bill for Kansas City.