Want to own an abandoned property in Newark? Land bank website aims to reduce blight across the city.

In an effort to reduce the number of blighted lots and turn more people into homeowners, Invest Newark on Thursday launched a website listing abandoned properties for sale across the city.

The website is a tool is known as a land bank. Invest Newark, a quasi-governmental nonprofit, was selected in April by the city council to run the land bank and launch the website.

The creation of the property database comes less than two years after Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation that allowed for municipalities to set up the system.

Prospective buyers will be able to apply to purchase the properties beginning in February. Users right now can preview properties, register to receive notifications and learn how to purchase land through training programs.

“The Newark Lank Bank is a powerful tool to help lift up our neighbors and improve the quality of life for Newark residents, and we look forward to the program’s full launch in February,” said Invest Newark CEO Bernel Hall in a statement.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka stumped for the land bank bill in Trenton. The bill allows a municipality to choose a non-profit organization to hold city-owned property and purchase liens at a tax sale, carry out lien foreclosures and take individual abandoned properties.

“The website launch is an important landmark in our strategy of building wealth for Newark residents by increasing home ownership and property ownership,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. “Beginning next month, as we look forward to defeating the pandemic, the landbank will help us to accelerate redevelopment and reduce blight in our neighborhoods.”

Invest Newark, formerly known as the Newark Economic Development Corporation, requires at a minimum for purchasers to provide basic personal or business information and a feasible development plan for the property of interest when rehabilitation is needed. Proof of financing is also required.

The concept of land banking has its critics. Former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, vetoed a version of the land bank bill twice, raising concerns about a lack of oversight and the concept becoming “vehicles of fraud and kickback schemes” in other states.

The land bank in Detroit was the subject of a federal investigation and has faced scrutiny over how its properties are distributed. A Newark councilman and former deputy mayor who once worked for the nonprofit the city selected to run the land bank now face criminal charges in alleged kickback schemes with developers.

The legislation Murphy signed required the organization handling the land bank to create an advisory board. The organization responsible for the land bank would also have to periodically give the state updates on changes to its online database.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-01-24 02:47:22 -0800