Oswego County Land Bank Helps Restore Communities

To the Editor:
In 2011 Governor Cuomo signed the Land Bank Act into law giving local communities a tool to finally address blighted, vacant and abandon properties.

These are the properties that remain vacant to deteriorate and rot, drag every other taxpayers’ property value down and invite all types of negative impacts into a community.

In short, these are the properties that no one else can or will step up to turn into the best solution for the respective community.

Currently, there are 23 land banks in New York State.

Land banks have been proven to be a solution for returning properties to the most productive and economical use for the respective communities and get them back on the tax rolls.

Oswego County Land Bank was formed in 2016 and in just one short year has impacted more than two dozen properties throughout the county: sold and put 10 properties back on the tax rolls, completed two full rehabs with seven more in process and completed 12 demolitions.

One of those demolitions was an abandoned fallen-down bowling alley on County Route 57 in Schroeppel and another was a vacant and abandoned gas station that was a Brownfield site, now clean, in the village of Mexico.

All of these properties are parcels that no one else would or could afford to take care of.

Statewide, land banks have leveraged over $75 million in private investment, renovated more than 400 structures, sold 650 properties and demolished more than 480 blighted structures.

However, New York Land Banks have no committed funding beyond 2018.

The magnitude of vacant and abandoned properties is immense in the state and our own county.

These problems have been years in the making and will take years to correct.

The lack of recurring, predictable funding inhibits long-term planning and limits the number of problem properties we can address in Oswego County.

Other states, such as Ohio, have secured reoccurring predictable funding and are recognized nationwide for being most effective in eliminating blight and returning abandon properties to productive use and generating tax revenue.

With a similar predictable funding model New York State and Oswego County could reverse decades of decline and become a leader in combating blight and improving neighborhoods.

Financial support for land banks is consistent with Governor Cuomo’s focus on revitalization of Upstate New York and compliments other innovative state programs such as the Restore New York Communities Initiative, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and the Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

These programs provide ‘last- in’ funds for gap financing, while land banks are typically the first line of defense: proactively intervening with abandon properties to buy time to construct plans for their redevelopment that leverage other state programs.

Abandoned and blighted properties prevent new home buyers and businesses from moving into and investing in older neighborhoods, depress property values, prevent existing homeowners from growing wealth through home equity, limit ability of investors to finance new businesses or improvements in these areas and limit the ability of local governments to generate vital property taxes.

New York State has the opportunity to become a national leader in one of the most effective approaches to combating blight.

The cost of doing nothing is too high of a price for New York and Oswego County residents to pay.

Shane Broadwell
President, Oswego County Land Bank

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