BELMONT — More properties, a new partner and back-end improvements aim to make 2020 a busy year for the Allegany County Land Bank Corporation.
In a report to the Allegany County Board of Legislators on Monday, land bank Executive Director Jason Isaman spelled out how the nonprofit established by the county has — and will — keep fighting blighted properties.
New York’s first 10 land banks were established in 2012 under the New York Land Bank Act. Today, there are 25, including in Allegany, Cattaraugus and Steuben counties. The Allegany County group’s board first met March 28, 2016.
The first two properties were acquired in 2017, with 16 sites now having been acquired. Ten of those properties had structures removed, while three others have been renovated. Of those properties, eight were picked up in 2019 alone.
While many of the properties renovated to date have been purchased from the county for between $150 and $4,000 per parcel, one property in Cuba was bought during foreclosure for around $37,000.
“We’ve spent almost $1 million around the county since we started,” Isaman said, counting acquisitions, demolitions and renovations of up to $120,000.
The agency appears to have lost money on many of its transactions, but Isaman said the work being done will more than pay for itself.
In one case in the town of Willing, the land bank purchased a home for $2,000 and spent $120,000 to renovate it into two units. Now, the property has an appraisal — and sale price — of around $40,000.
By getting the properties renovated, it gets them back on the tax rolls, he said — with $2,000 in taxes or more paid out annually. Meanwhile, demolition of a large home can be above $30,000, leading to a deficit, as well.
In addition, an empty lot assessed at only a few thousand dollars sold to a neighbor would take decades to generate the same amount of tax revenue for municipalities as if the home were renovated and inhabited.
“It actually gives back to the county — when the land bank loses, the county wins,” he said.
And by taking care of the blighted property, neighbors benefit. The Center for Responsible Lending projects that homeowners living near a foreclosed property, on average, lose $7,200 in property value, and projected a four-year increase in losses to $20,300 per household. Such losses would eventually affect tax assessments, spreading the tax burden to other properties within the taxing authority’s boundaries.
And even more is planned for 2020.
Under the corporation’s adopted 2020 budget, officials expect to bring in around $691,000, including the sale of $425,000 in real property. The budget estimates expenses at around $482,000 for the year, including spending $160,000 on rehabilitation, $90,000 on new construction, $80,000 on demolitions and $72,000 on acquisition and stabilization.
The county has continued supporting the land bank since its inception, though often with some dissent from some legislators. The legislators voted in November to allocate $50,000 to the nonprofit.
A total of five properties are being eyed for purchase off of the 2020 county property tax sale list, he said, and a new partner is joining the land bank this year on several projects — Habitat for Humanity.
“We expect to break ground with them on a house in Bolivar shortly, and two more in the spring,” Isaman said.
Another attempt at funding, he added, is being sought to aid homeowners fix up the exteriors of their homes “to address blight across Allegany County.”
In addition to direct efforts, Isaman said the land bank would like to help in modifications to the county’s property tax auctions to help improve outcomes for those properties, as well as create a database that can track blighted properties for local and countywide purposes.