Kansas communities have a variety of tools to address dilapidated property in cities and counties. Many local governments have been establishing land banks as an entity to manage and reclaim distressed property for the purpose of stabilizing neighborhoods and encouraging the reuse or redevelopment of property. As an entity, a land bank can purchase and obtain properties that have been abandoned or foreclosed upon, and maintain and facilitate the redevelopment, marketing, and/or redevelopment of the properties. In 1996 and 2009, the Kansas Legislature authorized cities to create land banks via ordinance (Kan. Stat. Ann. § 12-5902(a)) and authorizing counties to create land banks via resolution (Kan. Stat. Ann. § 19-26,104(a)).
As of March 2019, 23 Kansas cities and one Kansas county have developed local laws establishing land banks. Laws and policies in these jurisdictions vary. Land banks can be a tool to address health inequities in a community by repurposing and investing in properties to serve the community benefit. At the same time, land banks solely focusing on the economic benefits of repurposed property may be missing an opportunity to engage residents in the solutions that benefit the entire community, especially underserved populations.
Land banks can be a critical asset for improving food access and food security. In order to be effective, this role should be formally recognized in ordinances, guiding documents and policies. For example, land banks can establish priorities for re-use and sale which include projects to improve access to fresh healthy food, including community gardens, urban farms and farmers markets and food retail. Land banks can also establish processes for leasing vacant land for such uses, reducing maintenance costs, minimizing tax burden and improving fresh food access while the land is held in trust.
When working on land banks it is important to remember that property ownership in Kansas is complicated given the historical context of Tribal ownership and land transfers. Furthermore, scarce resources and political realities may limit a land banks scope and reach. Given the unknown equity impacts of local land bank initiatives in Kansas, more research is needed to ensure that land banks are not used as a tool to perpetuate or create inequities.
19 counties in Kansas created local land bank policy ordinances to manage and reclaim distressed property for the purpose of stabilizing neighborhoods and encouraging the reuse or redevelopment of property. This interactive map shares the cities and counties that established land bank policies for their communities.
Local governments across Kansas are interested in ways to manage vacant and derelict land, perhaps even converting that land into sites dedicated as community gardens or open space. In 1996 and 2009, the Kansas Legislature addressed this by authorizing cities to create land banks via ordinance and authorizing counties to create land banks via resolution. This resource discusses the legal requirements set forth by state law and provides sample language to help cities and counties draft an ordinance or resolution establishing a land bank.