Shelby County landbank promoting local land ownership

Commissioner Brittany Thornton says she will introduce a 90-day moratorium on purchases from the landbank in order to begin revamping the bank’s processes.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County commissioner Brittany Thornton is set to propose another Shelby County Landbank moratorium, one that she hopes will help promote local land ownership over out-of-town investors.

“Going into the land bank is one way to go about doing it,” the executive director of United Housing Amy Schaftlein said. “I think that if you are part of a neighborhood group and see there are clusters of landbank properties on the block ; being able to work together as a neighborhood association or with a community development corporation to get those lots and secure that land. That is key.”

With the shortage of affordable housing and more renters looking to become landownersssome are saying a good way to increase local ownership is by increasing the purchasing of land from the Landbank. But commissioner Brittany Thornton believes the process to purchase that land needs to be revamped.

“Our land has value, and it is incumbent upon them the best they can now to keep some piece of land in their ownership because if you own our land then you have power.”

It’s power commissioner Thornton hopes to secure more intentionally. She said it starts with changes in how the landbank communicates with the public. In order to get more local buyers, she says you need more education.

“You just don’t see people come around teaching you how to purchase landbank property and often times I hear a lot of misinformation,” Thornton said. “Which lets me know there’s a need for more education.”

Thornton also said the process has become more transparent.

“So many processes change in this office without the public knowing and that’s a disservice to citizens of Shelby County,” Thornton said.

Officials hope it’s a reset, along with a proposed rental registerythat will level the playing field for everyday Memphis.

“It’s going to come in to be able to help regulate the out-of-town investors who are and actors, who are slum lords,” Thornton said. “So, we’re doing these things concurrently.”

Commissioner Thornton says he will introduce a 90-day moratorium on purchases from the landbank during Wednesday’s commission meeting in order to begin the revamping processand the commission will vote on it next week.

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