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County Land Bank Discusses Five-Year Budget

The Chautauqua County Land Bank Corp. discusses future funding during their regular monthly meeting held at the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport Wednesday P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

The news financially is good for the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corp. for the next couple years.

However, there is still an unknown about sustained funding from the state for the organization in subsequent years.

On Wednesday, the county land bank board held its regular monthly meeting where they discussed how they will be receiving $2 million from the state Office of the Attorney General. Gina Paradis, county land bank executive director, said the $2 million they will receive was more than they applied for, which was around $1.9 million.

“We were really fortunate. They were impressed with what we do with the money,” she said.

Prior to receiving the $2 millions, the county land bank had received three other grants from the state to fund their operations, which is to demolish blight and renovate foreclosed houses. 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. During the third round of funding in 2017, the county received $1.1 million.

Paradis said she is hoping for a seamless transition from spending down the third round of funding and receiving money from the fourth round. She said the funding from the fourth round will be for 2019 and 2020.

Since 2013, the Attorney General’s Office has provided more than $82 million to land banks from funding it secured through settlements with the nation’s largest banks over misconduct that contributed to the housing crisis. This latest funding was secured through Martin Act securities fraud settlements announced earlier this year with the Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS.

In discussing the county land bank’s five-year budget, the board discussed how there is still an unknown if they will receive funding from the state for 2021 and beyond. Paradis has been told by state officials there will possibly be a fifth round of funding the county land bank can apply for next fall. However, she said at some point the settlements with banks and mortgage lenders will end.

Mark Geise, deputy county executive for economic development, said this is why state legislators need to create a funding mechanism in the state budget to fund land banks annually. Paradis said it seems state legislators are unwilling to do so because of the funding coming from the settlements. However, she said hopefully when the settlements are concluded state legislators will start to fund land banks annually and it will be done in a timely manner so there isn’t a lengthy gap without state funding. James Caflisch, county land bank board chairman, said with 35 land banks approved by the state Legislature, law makers will want to continue the land bank program, which means a stable funding source will most likely be created.

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