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Land Bank Goals Challenged By Pandemic | News, Sports, Jobs – Jamestown Post Journal

by Arifa Rana

May 2, 2022
It was a tough year for the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corp.
Land bank executive director Gina Paradis recently presented the organization’s 2021 annual report to the board during its monthly meeting.
“There is no doubt that the past two years have been extremely challenging for our land bank and our county,” Paradis stated in the report. “The pandemic continued to dominate the challenges facing our operations, both in our activities and in our preparations for the fallout that we will face this coming year and beyond.”
Paradis said the condition of the county’s housing stock isn’t improving following a nearly two-year moratorium on foreclosures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which could lead to an even worse housing crisis than in 2008. She said the funding land banks rely upon to operate its programs comes from settlement money from large mortgage companies and banks over misconduct that contributed to the housing crisis more than a decade ago.
“In 2021, the grant funding that our land bank and the land banks across New York state have depended on was depleted,” she said. “This lack of dedicated funding couldn’t come at a worse time when we are liable to be facing an even worse housing crisis from the pandemic. This financial crisis required much of our energy and focus in 2021 and thankfully, we have secured short-term funding to bridge that gap through the generosity of the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation.”
Despite the challenges, Paradis said the land bank did make meaningful contributions to communities in the county. She said in 2021, the Hands on Neighborhoods program was started in Jamestown and will also be done in Dunkirk this year. Last year, seven neighborhood cleanup events were held in Jamestown.
“Our impacts not only resonate with municipal leaders in their challenge to tackle issues of blight, but also with community members, many of whom stepped forward to work alongside of us in Jamestown last summer during the launch of our Hands On Neighborhoods program,” she said. “Hands On Neighborhoods, the (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design) Program and our Rehab Loan Program will help empower community members, strengthen neighborhoods, make them safer and create more equitable opportunities for homebuyers. We continue to refine these programs to ensure that they are effective and inclusive.
Despite pandemic setbacks, Paradis said the land bank exceeded its demolition goals last year, demolishing 29 houses.
“While primarily focusing on the cities of Dunkirk and Jamestown, we also completed demolitions in Silver Creek, Forestville, Fredonia, Portland/Brocton, Mayville and Ashville,” she said. “Twenty-nine derelict structures were demolished in total, furthering our mission to conquer blight in Chautauqua County.”
Paradis said the moratorium on foreclosures due to the pandemic impaired the land bank’s ability to acquire properties for its rehabilitation program and, subsequently, had no inventory for sale in 2021.
“The county did, however, transfer title to us for over 50 parcels that were scheduled for demolition, for facilitating the resale of the post-demolition lots for productive re-use,” she said. “Disposition of side lots this year numbered five parcels put back on the tax rolls, with many more to follow in 2022.”
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