South Bend public forum discusses creating land bank, vacant properties

Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 12:08 AM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - With a large number of vacant properties throughout South Bend, community members came together Monday to learn more about land banks as a potential solution.

“A land bank is a public entity, a governmental entity created by state legislation that is focused exclusively on addressing vacant and abandoned properties,” Center for Community Progress’s Tarik Abdelazim said.

A land bank acquires a tax-delinquent property and transfers it to a responsible buyer that aligns with goals specific to the community’s needs.

“It really recognizes land as one of the community’s most valuable assets, and that a land bank is a way to create more control over how that land is used productively to serve neighbors and neighborhoods,” Abdelazim said.

Indiana is one of 15 states in the country that has passed legislation for land banks, and right now there are already 3 in the Hoosier state.

With more than a thousand tax-delinquent properties throughout St. Joe County as of March 2020, some people are hoping the area will become home to the fourth land bank in the state.

“There’s been a lot of work on vacant and abandoned properties for many years in South Bend with support from St. Joseph County, and so I know that they’re now thinking about taking it to the next level,” Abdelazim said.

Monday’s forum was aimed at education and answering questions, but ultimately it would be up to the city or county government to create a land bank in the South Bend area.

“We want to be here as a resource to South Bend, to St. Joseph County, to the state of Indiana and anyone who wants to move forward in seeing the value of a land bank,” Abdelazim said.

Those at Monday’s forum also talked about the fact that land banks can be beneficial in helping communities recover financially from the pandemic.

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