Date: February 13th, 2024
To: Rep. Falkner, Chair, and Members, House Committee on Local Government
From: Mallory Rusch, Executive Director, Empower Missouri
Re: Support for HB 2065

Founded in 1901, Empower Missouri is the largest anti-poverty advocacy organization in the state. As part of our work, we organize a statewide Affordable Housing Coalition. This coalition is made up of individuals and organizations who are working to ensure every Missourian has access to safe, affordable, stable housing. On behalf of our staff, board, and coalition members, we are asking you to support HB 2065.

Data from our partners at the National Low Income Housing Coalition show 72% of very low income households in Missouri pay more than 30% of their income towards housing costs which leaves very little for medical care, food, childcare, and other expenses. There is nothing left for these families to save for an emergency, such as an unexpected medical bill or car repairs. We should consider that they are all one emergency away from homelessness. 

Our state also boasts over 370,000 vacant housing units according to an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey data. Left unchecked, these vacant properties are allowed to decay and create public health and safety hazards, severely impacting the vitality of our communities. 

Missouri has over 120,000 families who cannot simply move to find more suitable housing because there is no county in Missouri with an adequate supply of affordable housing. Recent estimates show that a person earning minimum wage would need to work fifty-four hours a week to afford a one-bedroom rental. Land Banks can help address the affordable housing crisis in Missouri through obtaining vacant and derelict properties and developing affordable multi-family units. 

Land banks can benefit rural communities through restoring abandoned properties to productive uses. Since the pandemic, rural areas are seeing a growth in population, necessitating the need for more affordable housing in these areas and a streamlined, affordable path to home ownership. It is our belief that this bill has the potential to impact rural areas with smaller populations. 

Seventeen states have passed land bank legislation and there are over 300 land banks and land banking programs in the United States. In Missouri we have four land banks in larger cities (St. Louis, Kansas City, Blue Springs, and Saint Joseph). Land banks are necessary to revitalize communities challenged by abandoned, vacant, and derelict properties, along with an economic boost through collection of delinquent taxes, job creation, and increased property values. SB 750 stands to benefit many Missouri counties and municipalities.

Land banks provide an economic boost to communities through increased property values, collection of delinquent taxes, and job growth. By rehabilitating abandoned and blighted properties, Missouri counties and municipalities will be able to increase affordable housing options and decrease reliance on government housing subsidies. Land banks allow for communities to be the decision-makers in regards to vacant and blighted properties, which keeps property rights and the choice on what is best for the community at the local level.  

We appreciate Representative Owen for introducing HB 2065 and encourage your support with a vote of “Do Pass”.

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