Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Monday authorizing Kansas City to establish a land bank to deal with vacant and abandoned properties.
The law allows the land bank to acquire vacant properties and set them aside for rehab or resale so that they can be put back on the tax rolls.
Currently, properties that are in such a state of disrepair that they go unsold at tax sale auctions are turned over to the Land Trust of Jackson County. But the trust has no budget to maintain or fix the properties. Of the roughly 700 properties it has acquired this year, it has sold fewer than 50.
The land bank will "be able to rehab vacant homes and turn deserted buildings into a viable asset for economic development," said Nixon, who was in Kansas City to attend baseball's All-Star Game. "This legislation gives the city the ability to replace deterioration with innovation and build a brighter future for all its residents."
A study last year by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City found that there were 12,000 vacant residential properties in the city. In some areas, the vacancy rate ranged as high as 25 percent. Upkeep and maintenance on vacant property cost the city about $1 million a year.
In addition to receiving properties that go unsold at auction, the land bank will have the ability to bid on properties in low-income areas and take on debt. It will not, however, have the power of eminent domain.
Now that the legislation has been signed into law, the Kansas City Council will have to vote to formally create the land bank.
City and county leaders have been enthusiastic supporters of the idea, including Mayor Sly James, who has referred to the land bank as "game-changing legislation to combat Kansas City neighborhood erosion."
"I think the mayor and the council have the best intentions and will work to create an agency that empowers neighborhoods," said Missouri Rep. Michael Brown, a Kansas City Democrat who has co-sponsored land bank legislation for several years.
Missouri Rep. Noel Torpey, an Independence Republican and the bill's co-sponsor, said it was fitting that the land bank bill was signed while the nation's eyes were on Kansas City for the All-Star Game.
"Now, let's hope Washington, D.C., is watching so they can see that if you strip political party aside you can do what's right and pass meaningful legislation," Torpey said.