Future Of Land Bank Discussed

MAYVILLE — With no dedicated state budgetary funding and not knowing when the fourth round of funding from the state Attorney General’s Office will be awarded, Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation officials are perplexed about their future financial situation.

On Wednesday during their regular monthly meeting, the land bank board discussed their fiscal sustainability while discussing the quarter two financial report. Gina Paradis, land bank executive director, said because of the land bank’s unknown financial security, they have to start seeking new ways to generate revenues. She said one of the ways could be to apply for state grant funding to purchase properties outside of the foreclosure process that could be used to generate revenue for the land bank to help ensure the entities financial future.

“It’s a big jump as far as responsibility,” Paradis said about acquiring properties that are not in the foreclosure process.

Since its creation in 2012 as one of the first five land banks in the state, the county land bank has focused on acquiring properties during the foreclosure process because they’re less of a challenge to deal with than properties that have liens, judgments and an uncleared title.

Stephen Abdella, county attorney, said land bank officials are also allowed by state law to acquire properties that are tax delinquent, vacant and abandoned.

James Caflisch, land bank board chairman, said state officials need to realize land banks throughout the state need a dedicated funding source to continue the quality work they do to rehabilitate properties and demolish blight. He said land banks, of which there are currently 25, but 10 more are to be added in future years for a total of 35, need to be funded annually rather than just waiting for appropriates following settlements with mortgage companies.

Through the first three rounds of funding from the state Attorney General’s Office, the state has made a total investment of $57 million in land banks throughout the state since 2013. The funding for state land banks has been secured through settlements from the nation’s largest banks over misconduct that contributed to the housing crisis.

Last year, the county land bank received $1.1 million during the third round of funding from the state Attorney General’s Office. During the first round of funding in 2013, the county received $1.5 million. During the second round of funding in 2014, the county received $1.3 million.

Paradis said land bank officials have been notified there will be a fourth round of funding from the state Attorney General’s office in the future. However, they don’t know when the funding will be appropriated. She said the land bank has funds for the rest of this year, but will need to start using unrestricted funds, the land banks savings, at the beginning of 2019 until they receive additional state funding.

“It sounds like we need to work on a plan B,” said Hugh Butler, land bank board member.

In other land bank business, Paradis said the land bank was deeded 18 properties for their Rehabs 4 Sale program following the latest county tax foreclosure auction. The land bank’s Rehabs 4 Sale program is used to acquire abandoned, foreclosed houses that are structurally sound that are sold at below market value to community members and organizations who will commit to renovating the property. She said the land bank was also given 17 houses for demolition following the tax foreclosure auction.

Paradis said land bank officials analyzed the selection of the properties for rehabilitation and demolition. She said they used the most recent housing report conducted by czb last year in Jamestown to determine the properties to acquire for renovation. She said the czb Housing Market Analysis and Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy report, which was funded by the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, focuses on improving housing in four areas of the city. The areas include the northside of the city around Lakeview Avenue area along North Main Street; the westside around Fairmount, Hall and Livingston avenues; the southside around Hazeltine/Forest avenues; and the eastside around Allen Park and UPMC Chautauqua WCA along Foote Avenue.

Paradis said Dunkirk has worked with czb on their first housing report. The czb report done in Jamestown in 2017 was the second one conducted by the housing consulting firm in the city, with the first one completed in 2010. She said the goal for land bank officials is to help rehabilitate properties in transitional neighborhoods to improve the housing strock.

“It is a very strategic process that takes time,” she said.