Land bank nets $1.2m grant

The Oswego County Land Bank is receiving more than $1 million to continue rehabilitating and demolishing properties into 2020.

oswego land bank receives a 1.2 million grant

The Oswego County Land Bank Board of Directors accepted a $1.2 million grant award Friday from Enterprise Community Partners, a non-profit charged with administering funds from the New York State Office of Attorney General secured through settlements with the banking industry following the global financial crisis of the last decade. Land bank officials say the Enterprise funds could allow for the rehabilitation of nearly 20 properties along with a handful of demolitions.

Formed in 2016, the county land bank has impacted several dozen properties — rehabilitating most and demolishing some of the county’s worst eyesores — in recent years as part of an effort to improve the housing stock in Oswego County by returning vacant, abandoned and tax delinquent properties to productive use. Officials say that mission will be continued in the coming years in part due to the $1.2 million, which could also help the organization become self-sustaining in the future.

“It certainly is important in sustaining the land bank long-term,” Executive Director Kim Park said Friday. “It’s $1.2 million for 2019-2020 that keeps us going and keeps building our funds so that we can keep reinvesting and rehabbing property all over the county.”

Park said the organization would seek to rehabilitate roughly 17 properties with the funds and demolish eight dilapidated structures. She said the money would be used to rehabilitate houses and put them back on the tax rolls.

“When we sell them we can then take the proceeds of those sales and put it right back into rehabbing other houses,” Park said. “And that’s the only way we’re going to get the housing stock back up to where it needs to be.”

The Oswego County Land Bank started as an antipoverty initiative, Park noted, and the housing stock in the county is a problem that needs continued work. She said the land bank is able to handle “the worst of the worst,” including properties that others are not willing to invest in.

“And those problem houses are the ones that are dragging down people’s property values and detracting from neighborhoods,” she said.

The Enterprise funds requires 80 percent of the funds to be spent on homes that are affordable to families making the average median income in Oswego County, which is $51,900 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2017, shortly after the land bank started to take shape, the organization received $1 million from Enterprise that helped jumpstart its efforts. Board of Directors President Shane Broadwell said land bank officials knew at the time that it would be important to use the funding successfully in order to earn future grant funding.

Broadwell said in the past two years the organization has created a success story, and through those efforts was able to secure the additional $1.2 million. He said the funds would allow the land bank to thrive in the coming years.

“That’s really going to set us up to be more aggressive and successful in the next two years,” he said.

Land bank officials continue to have concerns about what would happen if there were no future grant money coming in, Broadwell said, but noted the recent funding would allow the organization to continue building a strong foundation for the future.

“It’ll really help us get a couple more years down the road to help build that portfolio of successes,” Broadwell said, adding the land bank is able to earn money on rehabilitation projects that can be reinvested.

Land Bank Board Member Dave Turner said the organization aims to recoup the funds spent on housing rehabilitations and use any additional revenue to invest in other projects. He said a typical renovation might cost the land bank $40,000, but if the end product sells for $50,000 the organization can use the $10,000 on a future project.

“If you do that enough times, you just keep rolling the money over and you can take on a lot of other properties,” Turner said.

So far, the land bank has returned more than two-dozen properties to the tax rolls, Park said, and the organization currently owns 23 properties that are in various stages of rehabilitation or planned for demolition.

Though demolitions often mean a financial loss for the land bank, board member Dave Turner said if a structure can’t be rehabilitated, removing it from the neighborhood often enhances the value of the houses around it.

“It’s not a direct revenue source for the land bank, but it’s increasing the housing stock and the value of the other houses in the county,” Turner said.

Officials have said the land bank has now built relationships with roofers, plumbers, general contractors and others that have reduced the cost of doing business and allowed funds to go further. Unlike many land banks in the state, Park manages the organization’s rehabilitation projects in-house rather than hiring outside help, Broadwell said, which also helps lowers the cost.

Turner noted the land bank is also assisted financially by a close relationship with the county, which provides properties acquired through tax foreclosure, as well as legal assistance and reduced landfill costs for demolitions.

——————–As quoted on Oswego County News Now