Report shows progress of county Land Bank

A new report shows more than 40 properties sold by the Chautauqua County Land Bank dating back to its 2012 inception.

The New York Land Bank Association recently released its report summarizing the initial five years of land bank activity since the state passed the Land Bank Act in 2011. Data shows the Chautauqua County Land Bank sold around 46 rehab properties while private investment in area dilapidated housing totaled $1.6 million.

An additional $1.67 million invested during the five-year period went toward the removal of unsafe and blighted structures throughout the county.

The Chautauqua County Land Bank was one of the first five land banks established in 2012. The land bank, which tackles tax-foreclosed and vacant properties, received just over $2.8 million from 2013-16. A majority of the funding came from settlement money secured by the state Attorney General’s Office regarding misconduct by banks that contributed to the housing crisis in 2008.

Recently, the land bank was awarded an additional $1.1 million from the state Attorney General’s Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative. Funds will continue to support the land bank’s program, as well as countywide demolitions and rehabilitations.

According to Gina Paradis, land bank executive director, the land bank in a few short years has been able to produce some lasting impacts in neighborhoods experiencing a decline due to vacancy and abandonment.

“We are continuously refining our strategies and collaborating with community stakeholders to expand our reach and leverage resources to maximize the impacts of our program,” Paradis said. “It takes a great deal of teamwork to realize these results and we thank our partners in local, county and state government leadership who have played critical roles in our success thus far.”

To date, 20 land banks are in operation in the state. Throughout New York, the report states that land banks have acquired close to 2,000 properties — almost entirely through the tax foreclosure process. Around 650 properties were sold to private individuals or nonprofit partners and 482 unsafe properties were demolished.

The New York Land Bank Association’s report highlighted the Chautauqua County Land Bank’s early investments on high-priority demolitions, including the Portage Inn in Westfield that sat vacant for a long period of time.

Following demolition of the historic hotel, a plan was created and adopted to grade the site to facilitate development of an access road to community and natural assets. The project aimed to improve public access parking in downtown Westfield and create the Welch Trail, which will convert a historic railroad bed to a public, multi-use trail along Chautauqua Creek.

Katelyn Wright, NYLBA president, said communities across New York are finding land banks as flexible tools that can be adapted to local challenges. She said land banks enable communities to take control of abandoned properties while planning for long-term neighborhood revitalization.

“The New York Land Bank Association has evolved over the past five years into a powerful advocate for land banks and for communities facing blight and abandonment,” she said. “We’re excited to share this report outlining our collective achievements over the past five years and the challenges that lie ahead.”

The report can be viewed by visiting nylandbanks.org.

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