Chautauqua County Land Bank

Background

In 2008, seeking to address the issue of an increase in the number and concentration of vacant and abandonproperties impacting neighborhoods across the Chautauqua County, the County Legislature established the Chautauqua County Housing and Neighborhood Trust Fund (HNTF) in the amount of $200,000. They also created the Chautauqua County Housing and Neighborhood Trust Fund Task Force which was tasked with devising a strategy to utilize the allocated funding to address the property abandonment and dilapidation problem in Chautauqua County. The HNTF Task Force developed a report that provided the following recommendations:
 
          (1) Develop a long term strategy to revitalize the housing stock;
          (2) Leverage dollars from the housing trust fund;
          (3) Facilitate new partnerships to maximize resources; and
          (4) Create operating guidelines for investment.
 
Recognizing that in order to implement the committee's recommendations a program would need to be designed that was feasible and sustainable, in March of 2011, Chautauqua County Executive, Greg Edwards, charged the Chautauqua County Department of Planning & Economic Development (CCPED) with the task of devising a strategy for how the County could best utilize the HNTF funding to deal with the chronic property disinvestment issues that plagued rural Chautauqua County.
 
Additionally, in April of 2011, County Legislators unanimously adopted the Chautauqua County Comprehensive Plan: Chautauqua 20/20, that proposed, among other initiatives, to "Assess and develop identified housing strategies that lead to the preparation of a proactive strategy to adjust the County's housing supply to meet current market demands.....including reinvestment by a public/private partnership in reuse of existing buildings and land banking/disposition of properties as part of complementary open space initiatives" and "Investigate property management/land banking opportunities to identify and strategically remove existing, derelict properties to improve neighborhood conditions, and find ways to reduce housing demolition and disposition costs (e.g., a pilot program at the County Landfill linked to municipally-approved housing revitalization plans)."
           
In the proceeding months, CCPED and an informal steering committee studied the issue to identify the most feasible option for the County to pursue in order to address the identified problems. The CCPED recommended that the County pursue designation as one of the State's ten (10) Land Banks, with the goal of being selected in the first round and to act as a model for developing and utilizing land banks in rural areas. The objective of Chautauqua County's proposed land bank is:
  
To create a County-wide State-designated Land Bank to control and manage strategically selected dilapidated residential and commercial properties granted to the agency by the County from the tax foreclosure process. The Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation (CCLBC) will seek to minimize the negative impacts that substandard properties and structures have on communities, thereby stabilizing neighborhoods and Main Streets alike.
  

 
The CCPED and the informal steering committee identified the mission of the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation (CCLBC) to be:
 
Mission:
* Create a new paradigm for how foreclosed properties are managed in Chautauqua County to reverse the trend of further deterioration of the housing and commercial stock;
 
* Control and modestly improve promising properties so that we can attract reputable buyers committed to investing their time and resources in improving them;
 
* Return improved properties to the tax roll and productive use via sales and grants;
 
* Collaborate with municipalities, housing-related agencies, and the private sector to improve good structures that fulfill a need, and remove dilapidated structures that do not;
 
* Leverage internal assets with external resources to effectuate change;
 
* Make it affordable for reputable entities to acquire properties at a reasonable cost so that they can afford to invest the required capital to substantially improve properties; and
 
* Bank properties that may fulfill a recognized future need.
 

 
The following goals were developed in order to meet the objective set by the group:
 
Goals:
* Continue to cultivate collaboration with a wide array of stakeholders so that resources stay focused on a common vision and mission;
 
* Develop criteria for rating and determining which properties to seek control of;
 
* Develop criteria for how and to whom properties are sold so that it is an unbiased and transparent process;
 
* Seek reduced demolition costs and landfill tipping fees from the County and/or private sector;
 
* Seek to reduce asbestos and lead abatement costs through a variety of means;
 
* Seek outside revenue to supplement the LB funding in order to hire staff to administer the program and expand the Land Bank's operations; and
 
* Reverse the trend of deterioration in our neighborhoods and on our Main Streets, and right-size the available supply with the identified demand.

Results
In May of 2012, Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation, along with four other land banks in New York State, was approved by Empire State Development as one of the first state land banks.