Abandoned Properties Is A Statewide Issue

About 7.6 percent of the county’s housing units were vacant during the 2010 federal census – a number that includes all vacant houses except for those slated for seasonal, recreational or occasional use properties.

Of those more than 5,100 properties, the Chautauqua County Land Bank now controls 18.

That has been the story of the land bank’s first 15 months of existence – a big problem, big goals and little money to spend. The land bank’s 2013 budget is only about $50,000, with part of that generated by its projected sale of six properties for total proceeds of $21,032.

Now, thanks to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the land bank may soon have the money to make a real dent in the number of blighted properties in the county.

Schneiderman announced in July that $20 million his agency received from a national mortgage settlement will be made available over two years to the state’s eight land bank communities. The land bank’s board recently approved an application for $3 million from Schneiderman’s program.

Ideas for the money include financial assistance for developers for land bank properties; money to pay closing fees on a side lot disposition program, which enables the land bank to grant side lots to existing property owners; establishing the land bank as a repository for bank-foreclosed properties, which would allow banks to grant properties to the land bank; develop a website and marketing information; funding to help administer programs; and a countywide demolition program.

Those familiar with Jamestown’s Neighborhood Revitalization Plan and the study of city neighborhoods by Charles Buki know full well how blighted properties can impact property values in the rest of a neighborhood – buildings within 300 feet of a poor building sold, on average, for less than half of properties near better buildings.

The state’s creation of land banks was an acknowledgement that cities throughout the state had a serious problem with abandoned properties. Creation of the grant program shows the state is serious about tackling that problem.