Governor Murphy Signs Legislation to Permit Municipal Land Banking
“Where some see blight, we see promise,” said Governor Murphy. “Whether it is in Newark, Paterson, Trenton, or Camden, the creation of a land bank will be a powerful tool for taking empty and overlooked properties and turning them into places where residents can live and work, and where a new sense of community can be ignited.”
“Communities often face complex challenges when securing finances and resources for projects in blighted areas and our hope is that by allowing municipalities to create a public land bank, it will help ease the process of transforming properties from brownfields to successful redevelopment projects,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who also serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “These impactful projects have the power to spur on economic growth, create jobs and revitalize an entire community.”
“This land bank law is monumental for New Jersey and will have an enormous impact on Newark,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. “For more than fifty years, vacant and abandoned properties have blighted some of our neighborhoods and affected the quality of life of our residents. With this new law, we are finally turning the page! This important tool will empower the people of Newark to acquire these properties, restore them, and transform them into community assets.
Under the New Jersey Land Bank Law, municipalities will be allowed to designate a non-profit organization or a public entity as the municipality’s land bank entity. The public entities which a municipality may designate as a land bank entity include redevelopment entities, county improvement authorities, and departments and agencies of the municipality itself. Land bank entities will be permitted to acquire properties on its own and act as a municipality’s agent to purchase liens at a tax sale, carry out lien foreclosures, and take individual abandoned properties.
Primary sponsors of the legislation are Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, and Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker.
“Creating land banks and posting available properties online will allow municipalities to create positive redevelopment plans in our communities. Doing this in a responsible way can lead to revitalized cities and neighborhoods that existing residents can still afford to live in,” said Senator Ruiz. “By repurposing foreclosed or abandoned properties as quickly as possible we can prevent them from becoming areas that attract negative activity. It also has the potential to promote economic development and expand housing opportunities in both urban and rural parts of our state.”
“As we work to combat our State’s critical housing shortage, it makes sense for us to equip municipalities with as many tools provide affordable housing and larger development, as well as reduce the number of vacant and abandoned properties,” said Assemblywoman Jasey. “Designating single entities to act on behalf of municipalities will hopefully expedite the turnover process, and help us find productive uses for these properties.”
“This bill will go a long way in helping Trenton get abandoned properties back on the tax rolls and redeveloped into projects that benefit the community,” said Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora. “Land banks allow us to build mixed-income housing and other large development projects, we will be able to make great progress in revitalizing parts of Trenton that need new life while creating economic growth and job opportunities for Trentonians.”
The law provides for accountability to local communities through the requirement for community advisory boards with mandatory access to certain information and opportunities for the board to comment on the land bank entity’s decisions.
Land bank entities will further be required to develop and maintain an online, publicly accessible database of current and former land bank properties. The community advisory board must issue an annual report on the accuracy, integrity, accessibility, and comprehensiveness of the land bank entity’s online database.
The New Jersey Land Bank Law will take effect immediately.