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Land Bank Floated As Solution To Jacksonville Housing Crisis

Ryan Benk

Revitalizing some of Jacksonville’s most struggling neighborhoods is the goal of an effort that was discussed at City Hall Tuesday.

The multi-pronged effort includes something called a land bank.

Council members began by looking at a housing report by the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund. The fund’s Mary Littlepage says the Block by Block study shows which areas the city should target first, “especially looking at weak markets that may be adjacent to some that are a little stronger and trying to build off that strength and shore up those weaker markets."

Councilman Bill Gulliford says areas with weak housing markets are epitomized by this paradox: many homeless people and plenty of empty houses, but no way to connect the two.

After the foreclosure crisis in 2008, areas like Durkeeville were left deteriorating.

Gulliford says an independent land bank could help reduce blight by buying bank-owned foreclosures and redeveloping them for new residents. But it’d require the blessing of state lawmakers.

“In other states where they have established statutorily the assistance to land banks, it’s been both funding and structure,” Gulliford says. “For instance, I think the state of Michigan streamlined the foreclosure process so it happened quicker.”

But Gulliford also says there’s plenty that could be done at the local level as well. Some properties are in a sort of limbo because banks began but never finished the foreclosure process, and that adds to blight. So, he says Jacksonville officials could push banks to speed up foreclosures.

He also wants more education for people to understand the rights and responsibilities of renting or owning a home. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.