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Land bank bill likely heading for study committee

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An ambitious bill aimed at reducing abandoned housing has been watered down and is likely heading for a summer study committee.

Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, said his bill on land banks may have tried to tackle too many issues involving abandoned housing, including Indiana’s tax-sale process.

It’s such a complicated issue with so many stakeholders we may have to break it down into even smaller bites,” Clere said.

The bill was important to Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration, which already uses a land bank, and the legislation was supported by the Indiana Association for Community and Economic Development. Clere said he also had support from Habitat for Humanity and the Indiana Association of Realtors.

But the bill faced opposition from the Association of Indiana Counties, which said it would have diverted revenue away from public uses and given land banks the ability to pick and choose the best real estate, saddling taxpayers with truly blighted properties.

“Rather than let the bill die, I decided to amend it to provide for study of the issue,” Clere said. House Bill 1317 cleared the lower chamber before last month’s deadline and is before the Senate Committee on Local Government.

The original bill gave municipalities explicit authority to set up land banks, and it provided for tax-delinquent properties to be transferred from a county to a land bank at no cost.

“Who gets to make the call on what properties go to the land bank?” asked Andrew Berger, director of government affairs for the Association of Indiana Counties. “Our position is, it needs to be done by the county officials, not an unelected, unaccountable not-for-profit board.”

Berger said the Indy Land Bank, which sold 154 properties to a not-for-profit organization serving as a straw buyer for real estate investors, is a prime example of why land banks’ powers should not be expanded. The 2011 deal prompted the land bank, operated by the Department of Metropolitan Development, and Marion County Treasurer Claudia Fuentes to halt bulk sales to not-for-profits.

Indianapolis has roughly 15,000 abandoned and vacant houses and lots. The Indy Land Bank holds 1,200 surplus properties, thanks to a 2006 law that allows land banks to be set up by counties.

The bill also made several changes to Indiana's process of auctioning tax-delinquent property. Under the current system, investors who step in to pay back taxes receive a tax-sale certificate that allows them to collect interest from the property owners. Clere says that redemption process is a problem because it leaves properties in limbo for six to 12 months. He hoped to address it in part by requiring counties to notify lenders when a property is slated for tax sale. That would give banks an opportunity to pay the back taxes before an auction.

But counties oppose mandatory notification of lenders, which would add title-search costs. A court case on the notification-requirement issue is currently before the Indiana Supreme Court.

"This is a titanic battle between the association of counties and banks," Clere said.

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  1. Now if he'd just stay there...

  2. Daniel - what about the many US citizens who do NOT follow what the Bible teaches? The Hindus, Jews, Muslims and others who are all American citizens entitled to all rights as Americans?? This issue has NOTHING to do with "What the Bible says..." Keep all Churches separate from State! Pence's ongoing idiocy continues to make Indiana look like a backwards, homophobic state in the eyes of our nation. Can't we move on to bigger issues - like educating our kids?

  3. 1. IBJ should link to the referenced report. We are in the age of electronic media...not sharing information is lazy. Here is a link http://www.in.gov/gov/files/Blue_Ribbon_Panel_Report_July_9_2014.pdf 2. The article should provide more clarity about the make-up of this panel. The commenters are making this item out to be partisan, it does not appear the panel is partisan. Here is a list of the panel which appears to be balanced with different SME to add different perspectives http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?view=EventDetails&eventidn=138116?formation_id=189603 3. It suggests a by-pass, I do not see where this report suggests another "loop". 4. Henry, based on your kneejerk reaction, we would be better off if you moved to another state unless your post was meant as sarcasm in which case I say Well Done. 5. The article and report actually indicates need to improve rail and port infrastructure in direct contradiction to Shayla commentary. Specifically, recommendation is to consider passenger rail projects... 6. People have a voice with their elected officials. These are suggestions and do not represent "crony capitalism", etc. The report needs to be analyzed and the legislature can decide on priorities and spending. Don't like it, then vote in a new legislature but quit artificially creating issues where there are none! People need to sift through the politics and provide constructive criticism to the process rather than making uninformed comments in a public forum based on misinformation. IBJ should work harder to correct the record in these forums when blatant errors or misrepresentations are made.

  4. Joe ... Marriage is defined in the Bible ... it is mentioned in the Bible often. Marriage is not mentioned once in the US or Indiana Constitution ...

  5. Daniel - Educate me please: what does the Bible have to do with laws? If the government wasn't in the business of marriage to begin with, then it wouldn't have to "define" marriage at all. Marriage could be left as a personal, religious, or otherwise unregulated action, with no ties to taxes, legal status, etc. Then people could marry whomever they want, and all this silliness would go away. Remember to vote Libertarian in November.

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