Local governments will now have a new tool at their disposal to revitalize abandoned properties blighting their neighborhoods.
Under a law Gov. Phil Murphy signed on Wednesday, municipalities can designate certain nonprofit or public entities as “land banks,” which would acquire abandoned and vacant properties and revitalize them into sites that benefit the neighborhood, be it housing or businesses.
Murphy signed the measure in front of one such abandoned property: a vacant strip mall on South Orange Avenue in Newark’s West Ward.
With the new land banks, cities such as Camden, Paterson and Trenton can rapidly “transform” swathes of their affected neighborhoods, the governor said.
“Where some see blight, we see promise,” Murphy said.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, also at the bill-signing ceremony, touted the measure as another means by which cities such as his can be revitalized.
“Abandoned homes, vacant lots, buildings that have been burnt out next to people’s homes, devaluing the property, havens for squatters, drug activity, drug addiction, and drug selling, garbage and illegal dumping, even victims of crime and homicide in these buildings,” Baraka said on Wednesday.
Cities will be able to purchase and acquire and then maintain, advertise and eventually sell abandoned properties, or they could hand the tasks off to a nonprofit, county improvement authority, or redevelopment entity.
“The creation of a land bank will be a powerful tool for taking empty and overlooked properties and turning them into places where residents can live and work,” Murphy said.