Lancaster City Hall 2018

Lancaster City Hall

Two years after it first met Lancaster city's Land Bank authority is gearing up to begin operations — and its board is busy working out the details.

On Tuesday, the board hopes to vote on a partnership arrangement with local nonprofits that deal with affordable housing.

Later Tuesday, the city's redevelopment authority will consider a related initiative.

Both are aimed at combating homelessness and increasing affordability.

Land banks acquire properties through tax upset sales and the like.

The proposal before Lancaster’s Land Bank would provide a nonbinding framework for it to turn over selected properties to nonprofits for rehabilitation.

The goals include increasing the stock of affordable rentals and affordable properties for first-time homebuyers.

The agency’s potential partners include organizations such as Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership, Lancaster Equity, Community Basics and the city housing authority.

When a property becomes available, they would conduct a "joint review process" to decide which one of them should acquire it, according to a draft of the plan.

When homes are renovated for sale, the Land Bank and nonprofits would cover their costs and split any profits, with details worked out on a case-by-case basis. For rentals, the nonprofits would reimburse the authority for its costs once renovations are completed.

Having a framework in place will allow the Land Bank to "fast track" properties, ensuring they're returned to active use as quickly as possible, said Dan Jurman, a Lancaster Equity board member.

It also ensures the nonprofits are accountable, both for financing and for ensuring renovations are turned around in a timely manner, he said.

Redevelopment authority

The redevelopment authority, like the Land Bank, acquires blighted properties and returns them to the marketplace. Unlike the Land Bank, it's been around for decades. Five of the seven seats on the Land Bank's board are reserved for the authority's board members. 

The proposal up for discussion Tuesday would allow nonprofits to convert eligible properties acquired from the authority into affordable multi-family rentals, provided certain conditions are met.

Normally, when the authority sells a property to a developer, it has to be renovated as an owner-occupied home. The rule is intended to boost homeownership and prevent would-be slumlords from taking advantage of the authority to amass a portfolio on the cheap.

By creating leeway for nonprofit-owned rentals, the authority hopes to encourage more “supportive housing” — that is, housing that comes with social services designed to help people break the cycle of homelessness, authority vice chairman Jason Wynne said.

The properties would have to comply with zoning requirements and be in blocks the city and authority consider appropriate. The nonprofits would have to notify nearby residents and hold a neighborhood meeting before proceeding.

Wynne is behind a supportive-housing initiative in the 500 block of South Christian Street. The nonprofit Impact Missions is renovating two adjacent fire-damaged buildings there; when complete, each could house two families.

Improving housing outcomes is one of the goals of Mayor Danene Sorace administration's strategic plan.

Among other things, it calls for building partnerships to improve access to housing for low- and moderate-income households and reducing vacant and abandoned properties by at least 15%.