Subprimes into Land Banks

Here’s an interesting proposal for all of the disused properties that have been tied up in the MERS mess: Use eminent domain to assemble them into land banks for future equitable purposes. I suspect, at the end of the day, the real banks will find a way to hang on to the bulk of what’s in their portfolios. On the other hand, the sheer scale of those portfolios might be more than they want to fight for. A couple of years ago, I had a summer job where I helped to implement HUD affordable housing programs in Newark. At the time, there were blocks in the Clinton Hill and Roseville sections where nearly half the properties were in some sort of bank-owned limbo. It’s easy to forget, when you’re in the suburbs, just how much urban land investment has been wiped out in the last few years. The dearth of affordable housing in regions like the Northeast and California might be addressed if even a portion of this land could be deeded to high-density, limited-equity cooperatives.