'Land bank' a possible help in foreclosures in Kansas City

Kansas City StarFebruary 15, 2012 

JEFFERSON CITY -- Just a few years ago, Delores Johnson’s home on Kansas City’s East Side was worth around $80,000. Last year, she says it was worth only half as much.

“I’m maintaining my house and my property, but what’s happening around you has just as much impact as anything you do,” said Johnson, president of the Vineyard Neighborhood Association.

On her block, where she has lived since 1965, there are three vacant lots and one vacant home. In the entire neighborhood, Johnson estimates that about 10 percent of the homes are empty.

But a study last year by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City found that Johnson’s neighborhood is far from unique. All told, it found there were 12,000 vacant residential properties in Kansas City. In some areas, the vacancy rate ranges as high as 25 percent.

To help deal with the crisis, Kansas City-area lawmakers are once again pushing an idea that they contend could have a dramatic impact on blighted neighborhoods throughout the community — the creation of a land bank.

Cities big and small — from Olathe to St. Louis — have created such “banks,” where vacant properties are acquired and set aside for rehab or resale so that they can be put back on the tax rolls.

Not everyone approves of the idea, however. A similar effort ran into opposition last year in the Missouri Senate.

A House committee is expected to vote on a different land bank bill today.

Read the complete story at kansascity.com

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