PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A grassroots attempt to help neighborhoods take control of the vacant land on their streets is sprouting this spring. Organizers are asking City Council candidates in tomorrow’s primary to support the concept of a Land Bank.

The coalition of activists calls it the Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land. “That land trust determines the use, because you talk to the neighborhood about what the use should be,” says director of the Norris Square Civic Association, Patricia DeCarlo.

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(Credit: Steve Tawa)

DeCarlo says local trusts would convert vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties into productive use, “Whether it’s a recreation area, a little public park, a home — that’s the purpose of the land trust.”

DeCarlo says the land bank would have powers to acquire abandoned and tax-delinquent properties, “When the city puts land in the land bank, we’re asking that 51% of that goes to neighborhood land trusts throughout the city, so that the neighborhoods could decide what the use of the land is, and that the land is permanently affordable.”

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As the group checked out blighted properties, community advocate Nashanta Robinson pointed to one vacant lot on North 4th Street, near Norris, “This directly contradicts the morals that we have set for our children. The blight and trash brings crime and produces a negative in the community. We don’t want that here.”

The coalition says, just the upkeep of vacant lots costs the city $20-million a year, and nearby owners lose between 6.5% and 20% of resale value, when they share their block with vacant properties.

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Reported by Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio 1060