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Concerns Over County Land Bank Funding Raised

A before and after photograph of a house located along Deer Street in the city Dunkirk, which was one of the rehabilitation projects the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corp. participated in during 2018. P-J photos by Dennis Phillips

Even though 2018 is being hailed a successful year by the executive director of the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corp., questions still remained unanswered on how all state land banks will be funded annually.

In the 2018 annual report, Gina Paradis, Chautauqua County Land Bank Corp. executive director, said it’s great the local land bank received $2 million in funding from the state attorney General’s Office, but a more sustainable funding mechanism needs to be developed by state officials.

“While we accomplished much in 2018, it was also an unsettling year, in which we struggled to plan without an assurance of funding stability until late in the third quarter of the year,” she stated in the report.

“Fortunately, we were able to secure a $2 million grant via the state Attorney General’s Office, via settlement funds from the mortgage crisis. This will provide support for our program through 2020, however the need for predictable funding continues.”

Paradis said land banks throughout the state have a proven track record of being a highly effective tool in community development and neighborhood revitalization. She said land banks tackle the most distressed and derelict properties in their communities.

“These public burdens will not be alleviated with simple real estate transfers, they require intervention that the market cannot or will not provide,” she said. “If Land Banks are to succeed in intervening in destabilized neighborhood conditions, helping to ensure quality affordable housing and remedying the negative impacts produced by the dregs of the housing market, funding support from the state of New York needs to be budgeted.”

In 2018, the land bank also participated in a state pilot program for the first time called Neighbors for Neighborhoods, which is a rental rehab program meant to cultivate responsible local landlords. Last year, the land bank had four properties, two in Jamestown and two in Dunkirk, participate in the pilot program. Paradis said the properties were renovated into seven high-quality, affordable rental units.

“(The rental units) are beautiful, lead and asbestos-free with responsible land lords committed to keeping them up to standard and at affordable rent levels for the next 20 years,” she said. “This program represents a state, non-tax dollar, investment of (more than) $450,000 in affordable housing in our communities.”

Last year, land bank officials also continued several established programs like its Sales 4 Rehab. Paradis said in 2018, 26 properties were sold to developers that represents $1,288,407 in assessment value returned to the county tax rolls and $1,286,000 in private reinvestment in neighborhoods via housing rehabilitation.

In 2018, Paradis said the land bank participated in 25 dilapidated property demolitions, representing $1,068,000 in state funding, non-tax dollars, investment in blight remediation and neighborhood health and safety.

To view the full report, visit chqlandbank.org then go to public info and click on annual reports.

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