January 23, 2018

LB 854: Expanding Land Banks in Nebraska

The Nebraska Legislature is currently discussing LB 854, a bill introduced by Senator Quick that would expand the number of municipalities in Nebraska which may create a land bank. We believe the Omaha Municipal Land Bank can be used as a successful model to quickly and easily expand land banks to other Nebraska communities.

You can find specific information about LB 854 on the Nebraska Legislature website.

The Problem

Vacant, empty and tax-delinquent lots and structures drag down property values, create safety hazards in neighborhoods and often become the location of crime. A variety of issues, from missing owners to liens on the property, make it difficult to transition these properties to new owners, meaning that properties continue to deteriorate and cities miss out on potential tax revenue.

Land Banks as a Solution

A land bank is an organization that acquires vacant, abandoned or dilapidated properties for redevelopment. By acquiring properties that have been neglected and rejected by the open market, eliminating their liabilities and transferring them to new owners in a manner most supportive of local needs and priorities, a land bank serves as a catalyst for transforming distressed properties into community assets – places where people want to live, work and play.

The Omaha Municipal Land Bank

An overriding public need to confront the dilemma of vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties prompted the Nebraska Legislature to pass the Nebraska Municipal Land Bank Act in 2013. That legislation allowed the City of Omaha to create the Omaha Municipal Land Bank (OMLB), as a governmental nonprofit organization, in 2014. That same year, a board was appointed and the first board meeting was held. From 2015-2016, the board created policies, hired an Executive Director, developed a strategic plan and began working to inform the community about the Land Bank’s presence and promise. 2017 was the first year of implementation and brought many successes, including a total of 51 properties sold, three properties transformed, almost $300,000 in property sales and the addition of four staff members.

The Land Bank is led by an Executive Director and staff working under the supervision of the OMLB Board of Directors. The Land Bank uses public funding, philanthropic contributions, property tax recapture, property sales, tax certificate redemptions and bonding authority to finance our efforts.

The long-term goal of the OMLB is to reinvigorate our hardest hit neighborhoods by facilitating development that leads to increased property values, reduced crime, improved opportunity and most importantly, renewed hope and pride in our neighborhood and city.

The Omaha Municipal Land Bank gives the City of Omaha a way to responsibly acquire, develop and inspire change in distressed properties. With staff dedicated to the mission, the ability to cancel liens and clear titles, selling prices that encourage development, a focus on community needs and a development requirement for all properties sold, the Land Bank is uniquely able to address the problem of distressed properties in Omaha.

Expanding Land Banks throughout Nebraska

Distressed and abandoned properties can be found everywhere, from the largest cities to the most remote rural areas. Around the country, and now in Omaha, land banks have proven to be an effective tool to address problem properties and reinvigorate communities. The Omaha Municipal Land Bank can be used as a successful model to quickly and easily expand land banks to other Nebraska communities.