By Jordan Rae Hillman, AICP
Public Information Officer
For many years, the Mississippi Chapter of the American Planning Association has had an interest in seeing land bank legislation successfully implemented in Mississippi. Currently, there is a bill working its way through the Mississippi Senate, which has been referred to the Finance Committee and the Public Property Committee for consideration.
SB 2856, also known as the Land Bank Act, would create a Land Bank that will allow for a more efficient and effective process for redeveloping blighted property into more productive uses. Other states around the country have been using land banks for decades to effectively redevelop blighted properties.
Of particular importance in Mississippi is that funds for the Blight Elimination Program, which is administered by the Mississippi Home Corporation, expire in 2020 if they are not awarded. That amounts to more than $19 million that the state could use for blight removal that will vanish into thin air. Without this land bank, it is unlikely that these Blight Elimination Program funds will be used quickly enough to make much of an impact. However, if the Land Bank Act passes this session, the likelihood skyrockets.
As you all know, there are thousands of blighted properties around the state that are cancerous in their communities. Often through tax forfeiture, these properties end up in the Secretary of State’s Public Land Division for sale. The Secretary’s office manages these properties as best they can, but they do not have the authority/ability to maintain the properties that they hold when there is not a buyer. These properties typically come with title issues, and many who might be interested are not willing to pursue the title quieting that is required to get a clean deed.
The land bank fills the gap with the ability hold property, quiet title, demolish, clean, and strategically get properties back into productive use.
Key points to consider:
This bill has no money tied to it. No one’s taxes will be raised. It is simply an enabling legislation that will allow local governments to set up a land bank at their discretion.
The bill is needed because existing authorities granted to both state and local government cannot perform the task. It is not duplication.
There needs to be urgency on everyone's part to deal with this. As planners, we play a vital role in making sure there are policies in place that allow local communities to plan for their future.
The deadline for this bill to make it out of committee is this Tuesday, February 5, so please act fast! Email your senator today!
If you would be willing to support this legislation, please contact a member of the Senate Finance Committee or the Senate Public Property Committee (committee members and emails listed below) and voice your support for SB 2856.
Senate Finance Committee
Joey Fillingane (chair)
Dean Kirby (vice-chair)
Senate Public Property Committee