NEWARK, NJ – An initiative leading Newark through its post-COVID economic recovery was launched with the aim of increasing home ownership and creating affordable, marketable housing across the city.

The launch of The Newark Land Bank, a Newark Mayor Ras Baraka-sponsored program to improve the quality of life for Newark residents, was celebrated Tuesday by land bank and city officials at 93 3rd St., one of the first properties to be built became available on the website.

By increasing the capacity of minority and women-owned companies (MWBE) and subcontractors, the program seeks to create inclusive investment opportunities for local entrepreneurs as a route to economic recovery.

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“It gives us a chance to attack the rot,” said Baraka. “When I grew up in Newark – in neighborhoods – there are lots and lots of abandoned lots that have been around for decades … It’s lot I’ve walked past for 30 to 40 years my entire life.”

The land bank is the first of its kind to be introduced in New Jersey under the 2019 law passed by Governor Phil Murphy. The program enables state municipalities to designate a land banking entity to preserve vacant, abandoned, and neglected land for productive reuse.

With empty, vacant properties that have the potential to add to what the mayor described as “poor quality of life” for residents, he found that the program will give Newarkers the opportunity to build their own businesses.

“We’re starting to change that by redeveloping it,” said the mayor. “We don’t want speculators to come in and renovate the property. We want to give small developers, local developers, homeowners and residents of this community the opportunity to improve their own communities and their lives. “

The city is currently facing low home ownership rates, according to a report released by the Urban Institute in September. The report shows that in 2018, 22% of households in Newark were homeowners, which is less than half the total rate in Essex County.

“Newark’s home ownership rate is also below that of similar cities, both sister cities in New Jersey and others across the country,” the report said. “Newark’s low home ownership rate is reflected in white, black, and Hispanic households. Although white home ownership rates are higher than both black and Hispanic rates, the difference is smaller than the US as a whole. All three Newark groups have home ownership rates among these unparalleled “New Jersey areas.”

With low home ownership rates in the city and an economy badly impacted by the pandemic, Bernel Hall, President and CEO of Invest Newark, told TAPinto Newark that the land banking program will expedite the process of accepting offers and redevelopment proposals for vacant lots and buildings and bids citizens have equal access to real estate.

“Newark is on the brink of major redevelopment,” Hall said. “We need the land bank to give people who have gone through all of Newark’s downturns and other problems the same opportunities as developers who want to take advantage of the Newark boom.”

As part of the initiative to provide the community with expanded access and property purchase opportunities, Invest Newark has previously hired Karima Jackson of Exquisite Property Services, a Newark-based MWBE, to maintain and manage the property preparation.

Residents interested in Newark Land Bank can create profiles on the program’s website to review available properties, register for alerts, and apply directly for properties.

The Newark Land Bank properties will open for filing after a community meeting on March 2nd at 8:00 p.m.