County Land Bank Competing For New State Funding

A house being demolished through work done by the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation. By the end of the year, the land bank, by working with community partners, will be responsible for more than 100 condemned houses in the county being demolished since 2012. Submitted photo

There are almost twice as many new land banks in the state that will be competing for the newest round of funding available from the state Attorney General’s Office.

On Wednesday, Eric Schneiderman, state attorney general, announced $20 million in new funding available for state land banks to use toward protecting homeowners and neighborhoods by acquiring blighted houses to tear them down or rehabilitating them into community assets. The newest round of funding from the state will be administered by Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Enterprise Community Partners.

Since 2013, the state has provided more than $33 million to land banks with funding secured through settlements from the nation’s largest banks over misconduct that contributed to the housing crisis. This latest funding, made possible by settlements announced earlier this year with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, will be offered through a competitive request for proposals to the state’s original 10 land banks as well as the newest eight land banks, which have formed during the last year.

Gina Paradis, Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation administrative director, said the funding they have received from the state attorney general is their main source of funding. She said once again the county land bank will be applying for state funds. She added that exact information on the how much the county can apply for has not been made available yet. However, the last time county officials applied for funding, there were only 10 land banks.

”I know it will be more competitive because the state has designated 18 land banks and they are in the process of approving the 19th,” she said. ”So we are looking at 19 land banks for this grant funding round. So it will be more competitive this year”

During the first round of funding in 2013, when there was $13 million available for state land banks, the county received $1.5 million. During the second round of funding from the state attorney general in 2014, when there was $20 million available for state land banks, the county received $1.3 million.

Paradis said, since receiving the state attorney general funding, the county land bank has completed more than 75 demolitions, with an additional five in Dunkirk, six in Jamestown, and four rural demolitions to be completed by the first quarter of 2017. A total of $2 million in state Attorney General grant funding was leveraged with Community Development Block Grant funding in Dunkirk and Jamestown to complete more than 50 additional demolitions in Dunkirk and Jamestown. The money has also been used to acquired 17 zombie properties through bank foreclosures, with $280,000 in grant funding. These houses were often vacant problem properties for more than 4 years, but were placed in the county land bank’s Sales 4 Rehab program for renovation.

”By the first quarter of next year, the county land bank will have finalized the transfer of approximately 33 vacant lots to neighbors who will merge them with their parcels, maintain them and get them back on the tax rolls.” Paradis said. ”We are very grateful to the (state) Office of the Attorney General and to the (Chautauqua) County Legislature for their support that they have provided us the last couple years as we ramped up our programs.”

The announcement of the latest round of funding comes as a new report from the state attorney general’s office finds that the $33 million invested in the state’s original 10 land banks since 2013 has resulted in substantial benefits for homeowners and communities. In the past three years alone, these land banks have reclaimed 1,995 properties from abandonment and blight, returned 701 properties to the market and put them back in productive use and demolished 409 unstable structures.

By stabilizing, renovating or demolishing formerly blighted properties, the state land banks are saving an estimated $19 million in property value for surrounding homes, according to estimates by the state attorney general’s office. This estimation is based on the average housing density and property values for the counties covered by each land bank, and on a study of property value loss for homes within 500 feet of blighted properties.

”New York’s land banks have successfully empowered communities across the state to rebuild and revitalize neighborhoods hit hard by the foreclosure crisis,” Schneiderman said. ”I’m proud that the funding my office helped secure this year in settlements with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs will now make it possible to support nearly double the number of land banks across the state, and deliver much-needed support to homeowners in New York.”

Applications for the newest round of funding are due by Nov. 30 and award notifications will be made in December.