On Wednesday, October 30, 2019, the Partnership for Strong Communities hosted its third IForum of 2019, Land Banks and Conservatorship: Connecticut's New Tools to Stabilize Neighborhoods. The event featured keynote presentations on land banks and conservatorship, two redevelopment-focused tools which provide municipalities with flexibility and resources to deal with blighted properties. These tools were the focus of two new state statutes passed by the Connecticut General Assembly during the 2019 legislative session and, later that year, signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont.
Laura Settlemyer, Director of Blight Remediation & Housing Code Enforcement at the City of Hartford, began the event with a presentation on Connecticut's new land banking law. Modeled off of similar legislation in New York, the law empowers Connecticut municipalities to create their own land bank authorities. These authorities provide a tool for local government and the community to convert "vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed properties" into community assets.
The Hartford Land Bank, Connecticut's first official land bank, has been under development in Hartford since 2016. The city recently underwent its first tax deed sale since 2015, finding owners for 11 blighted properties and transferring 26 others to the land bank for remediation and redevelopment.
Hartford has also taken steps to survey and map the city's blighted and vacant properties. The recently-completed Property Conditions Survey helps the city visualize and contextualize the state of vacant and blighted properties, and will help the city coordinate with buyers and developers.
The second keynote was provided by Dave Foster of Community Solutions, a nonprofit which works to end and prevent homelessness at the local level. Foster's presentation focused on Connecticut's new law concerning receivership (also known as conservatorship). The Connecticut law, modeled off of Pennsylvania's successful conservatorship program, provides "a legal process to address vacancy and blight for parties with standing." Receivership can help communities through the development of public-private partnerships to redevelop abandoned and blighted properties, while ensuring that the responsibility of maintaining the property is kept within the community.
Following the keynote presentations, Settlemyer and Foster participated in a panel discussion with Melvyn Colon (Executive Director, Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance) and moderator Kiley Gosselin (Executive Director, Partnership for Strong Communities). Topics of discussion included potential challenges for implementing these new statutes, advice for someone looking to start a land bank in their own community, and how these new laws can help boost homeownership rates in Connecticut cities. For more information on this panel discussion, follow along with the Partnership's live-tweet thread from the event.
Click here for the agenda for the October 2019 IForum.
Bios for the speakers and panelists are linked here.
Click here for a downloadable flyer.
Slides from Laura Settlemyer's presentation are linked here.
Click here for the slides from Dave Foster's presentation.