On Monday, March 18, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving submitted testimony to the General Assembly’s Planning and Development Committee in support of Testimony Supporting H.B. 7277, An Act Concerning the Creation of Land Bank Authorities. The Foundation strongly supported this proposal, which would allow municipalities to create “land banks,” a tool that enables local governments and communities to convert vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties into productive use. The Hartford Foundation has made significant investments to support efforts to repurpose blighted and abandoned buildings through its support of the Hartford Neighborhood Development Support Collaborative (HNDSC), a funder collaborative that seeks to build strong, healthy neighborhoods in Hartford by strengthening the capacity of Hartford-based community development corporations (CDCs) to create quality affordable housing; expand economic opportunity; and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods through community partnerships and strategies. Most recently the Foundation awarded a grant to the nonprofit Hartford Land Bank to fund a Hartford-wide property survey and market analysis to identify properties for remediation and development and analyze housing market conditions and trends across the city – vital information needed to develop a strategy for all partners involved in blight remediation, including the Hartford Foundation, to target resources to those areas of greatest need and opportunity for development.
Testimony Supporting H.B. 7277,
An Act Concerning the Creation of Land Bank Authorities
Planning and Development Committee
March 18, 2019
Senator Cassano, Representative McCarthy Vahey, Senator Champagne, Representative Zawistowski, and distinguished members of the Planning and Development Committee, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is grateful for this opportunity to submit written testimony supporting H.B. 7277, An Act Concerning the Creation of Land Bank Authorities.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for the 29-town Greater Hartford region. As a community foundation, we manage, grow, and distribute approximately $1 billion in assets to promote equitable opportunity for all residents in our region, particularly in the areas of education, community safety, and community and economic development.
One aspect of our community and economic development work includes working with our nonprofit and municipal partners to combat blight, especially in the city of Hartford. Hartford alone contains an estimated 400 or more vacant and abandoned properties – just over four percent of all taxable city parcels – but blight exists in cities and towns all across the state. Vacant, blighted, abandoned, and foreclosed properties impede economic development efforts and threaten community safety for those who live and work nearby. Properties left in this state for too long destabilize both residential neighborhoods and commercial districts.
The Hartford Foundation strongly supports House Bill 7277, which would allow municipalities to launch “land banks,” a tool used by local governments and communities to convert vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed properties into productive use. In other states (especially in the Rust Belt), more than 170 land banks in operation – mostly nonprofit or government entities – use their funds to acquire properties, manage or restore them if needed, and hold them until they can sell to interested buyers. Proceeds from the sales are directed back into the community to acquire more properties.
The legal powers granted to land banks in House Bill 7277 help ensure that they can effectively leverage their funds in the community. Hartford launched Connecticut’s first land bank in 2017. The nonprofit Hartford Land Bank was established to leverage resources to maximize the impact of the City of Hartford and nonprofits working on blight remediation and community development by acquiring, rehabilitating, and selling properties, with a focus on vacant and abandoned Hartford properties. The Hartford Land Bank will also be a resource to assist vulnerable property owners, including the elderly, by providing resources they need to maintain their properties. However, until this bill passes, the land bank could be taxed on the properties itis holding until it finds an eligible buyer, allowing public and private funds invested in the land bank to dwindle over time. We strongly support the provision of this bill that will enable land banks to hold properties tax-free, ensuring that land banks can effectively invest and re-invest their funds into local properties to their maximum use.
The Hartford Foundation supports blight remediation efforts in a number of ways, including:
The Hartford Land Bank will serve as a critical partner to the Hartford Foundation and other community development stakeholders to increase the impact of neighborhood revitalization efforts in Hartford. The State has already authorized $5 million in funds for the Hartford Land Bank, dedicated primarily to support the acquisition, disposition, and redevelopment of housing. Once operating at capacity, the Bank seeks to leverage further public and private grants, loans, and social impact financing. This legislation will ensure that Hartford and other interested municipalities can maximize the power of public-private partnerships to change the face of our cities and towns in need. We strongly urge this committee to support House Bill 7277.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-548-1888.
 Memorandum re: Hartford Land Bank Action Plan. (April 26, 2018). Graziani, Kim and John M. Carpenter. Center for Community Progress.