Land Banking


What Are Land Banks? 

Land Banking is a new tool available to aid municipalities in their effort to mitigate and combat blight within their communities. A land bank  does this by acquiring blighted and abandoned properties through various means, including donation and the county’s sheriff sale, and “banking” them for future development.

What do they Do?

Once the Land Bank has possession of a property, it must hold it to the standards outlined in municipal code, transforming what were originally eyesores to just another house on the block. This boils down to mowing lawns and shoveling snow but also includes stabilizing unsecured buildings which pose a hazard to the community at large.  

A land bank’s end goal is to match new owners, non-profits or entrepreneurs with its existing inventory, effectively returning idle properties back to a taxable and functioning state. To successfully accomplish this task, land banks employ a number of programs. The most prominent would  involve the land bank, or its partners, completing restorations and prepare the property for sale or rent. The Land Bank will also work towards assembling vacant lots and merging them into more palatable sites for future economic development.

Land banks are often leaders in the field of information technology and data consolidation. These public agencies are designed to streamline the land-recycling process by utilizing the latest cloud-based technology and property management systems and championing transparency by providing up to the minute information on all of its inventory on mobile ready websites. Getting these properties back in action has never been easier with the status of a property only a few clicks or finger-taps away. 

Land Banks thrive through cooperation. Working in conjunction with participating members, the Lank bank will develop acquisition and disposition strategies which are informed by the latest regional trends but are also in line with locally adopted land use plans. With the land bank as their partner, municipalities have a stronger voice in how properties are reused and to whom they go to. 

Useful Links –

For more information on Land Banking and please visit the Housing Alliance’s Land Bank Head Quarters. If your interested about blight and its effect to the region please see our Cost of Blight Study or if your interested in other tools available to mitigate blight please visit the  PA Blight Library.

Steel River COG and Land Banking:

In November 2012, Pennsylvania’s State Legislature passed Land Bank Act 153, and in doing so, finally made land banking in Pennsylvania a reality. With the bill finally enacted, Pennsylvania has the opportunity to establish public agencies called land banks. Since the passage of the Act, the Steel River COG, in conjunction with Turtle Creek Valley has been trying to bring land banking to Allegheny County and understand how it may function and aid in the region’s resurgence.

In preparation, the TCC in 2013 conducted an analysis to quantify the cost which blight has on our municipalities, school districts, county and property owners.  With the problem of blight thoroughly examined, the TCC then set out in 2014 to lay the ground work for the implementation of a land bank within its jurisdictions. The end result was the development of a Land Bank Business Plan which provided the legal, fiscal, and procedural framework needed before a land bank is established.

Download a copy of the Full Business Plan or Executive Summary.

Business Plan Highlights: 

Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreements: Before a land bank begins conducting any activity, it must first be legally enabled to do so through an agreement with the municipalities, school districts and the county. The Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreements provides this authorization and outlines the organizational structure of the land bank along with the financial and operational terms the land bank will have with each taxing jurisdiction.


For more detail on ICAs please including draft ICA’s please see Section 2-III, Appendix I and II of the Land Bank Business Plan

Land Bank Budget: In anticipation to the land bank being established, a budget was created which modeled six years of land bank activity. The budget models every step of the land banking process, including acquisition, property maintenance and rehabilitation to disposition.


For more detail on the land bank budget please see section 3 of the Business Plan.

Board Structure: The Act requires a land bank board to have anywhere between five and eleven members. In our plan we recommend a nine member board which provides adequate representation of initial membership but also allows for future growth if others taxing jurisdictions were to join.

The Plan proposes the Land Bank Board be composed of two municipal, two school district, a county and representatives along with three positions reserved for qualified professionals and one for a local resident. 

Land Bank Board

For more detail on board structure and selection please see Section 2-II of the Business Plan.