LOCUS, a coalition of triple-bottom-line real estate developers convened by Smart Growth America, made significant advocacy efforts this summer. The coalition’s work aims to advance legislation that could lead to more equitable, sustainable development and better connectivity between land use and transportation policy. A core focus of this advocacy work has been establishing strategies to deliver more mixed-income and mixed-use development near transit. Below are three important bills that would advance these goals.
As Congress has repeatedly postponed tough decisions on federal transportation funding, a handful of states have stepped up and passed new transportation funding legislation. In early 2015, a host of new state legislators and governors will be sworn in—and in many state capitols, transportation will be on the front burner.
Transportation advocates and legislators are invited to Capital Ideas: Raising Money for Transportation Through Innovative State Legislation on November 13-14, 2014 in Denver, CO. This two-day conference hosted by Transportation for America will explore new ways to raise money for transportation projects.
Across the country, communities fighting to stay one step ahead of the foreclosure crisis are struggling with abandoned and vacant properties that lower surrounding property values, cut into local tax revenues, attract crime, and perpetuate a cycle of disinvestment. New York State is one of the places this battle is being waged, and Smart Growth America along with our coalition partner Empire State Future have been working to support a bill that could help.
New York’s Land Bank Act (A00373, S663) would give New York jurisdictions the option to create a local entity to hold and manage problem properties and return them to productive use. In doing so the Act would bolster local economies and increase the safety, health, and vitality of struggling neighborhoods. In addition to these benefits, the bill is also revenue neutral and would achieve its aims without any added burden on New York taxpayers.
A recent op-ed in the Times Union by Empire State Future explains the benefits of creating land banks:
Land banks are able to acquire property, clear titles and dispose of land so the parcels again generate tax revenue. The best national example is the Genesee County Land Bank in Flint, Mich., a city of 102,000 people, down from 190,000 in 1960. This organization, formed in 2002, has developed innovative programs to facilitate the reuse of more than 4,000 formerly vacant and abandoned properties including side-lot transfer (more than 200 parcels), community gardens, housing rehabilitation and foreclosure avoidance (serving more than 1,300 families). Since its inception, this land bank has helped real property values in Flint to increase by more than $100 million.
The Land Bank Act could help make New York’s cities and towns more attractive for workers and businesses, and provide them with walkable communities close to shops, services and low-cost transportation choices. Land banks have been proven effective in other states and cities and have helped to revitalize many communities. New York today has towns, cities and counties that could turn their distressed spaces into valuable assets, but they need the power to do so.
In a time when state public infrastructure funds are already stretched thin, can we afford to exacerbate the problem by making infrastructure decisions that support sprawl, requiring expensive extension of roads and utilities? According to the New York state legislature the answer is no. Last month the state passed the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act.