While plenty of Newark’s streets are lined with privately owned single-family homes, apartment buildings, stores, and office buildings, there is no shortage of tracts in New Jersey’s largest city that are in the hands of City Hall. Now, a new report is calling for the City of Newark to consider a new strategy in order to sell off some of its property.
The Newark Forward report, described as “a blueprint for equitable growth and opportunity in Newark,” recommends that a land bank be created in the city. The land bank, which would be similar to the Detroit Land Bank Authority in Michigan, would be used in order to decrease the number of city-owned tracts. According to the report, the agency could possibly be managed by the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation and would “spur property ownership by Newark residents and the production of additional affordable housing.”
If the proposal were to move forward, properties like abandoned buildings and empty tracts that are owned by the City of Newark would instead be under the control of the land bank, which could receive funding from federal grants, the municipal operating budget, and private donations. Potential property owners could possibly buy properties from the land bank online or through auctions, while other services of the agency would range from demolition to economic development, according to the report.
Currently, in order for a property owned by the City of Newark to be sold to a new owner such as a developer, the Newark Municipal Council must pass a resolution. Tracts in the city frequently sell for well below their assessed or appraised value since Newark often sells land for $4 per square foot or a negotiated rate with the new owner.
The Detroit Land Bank Authority lists homes and other properties in Michigan’s largest city that are for sale to the public right on its website. The agency, which has been in existence for roughly a decade, has been quite controversial. It has seen criticism for not selling some properties that it owns and the relatively high salaries of some of its staffers. The land bank in Detroit has also been under federal investigation. However, others have praised the agency for increasing home ownership among Detroiters.
The Newark Forward report was created in the fall as a partnership between the City of Newark, the Urban League of Essex County, Rutgers University-Newark, and other local institutions. Other recommendations in the report include having the City of Newark advance local procurement initiatives for small businesses, develop entrepreneurship programs, follow experimental housing models, create housing that adapts to the needs of specific groups, and establish a welcome desk at City Hall.