POUGHKEEPSIE – The Poughkeepsie Common Council has taken the first legislative step to create a land bank in partnership with Dutchess County.
Land banks have been a tool in helping communities return vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties to productive use. Under the New York State Land Bank Program, local municipalities can apply to create land bank not-for-profit corporations in their communities for purpose of acquiring real property parcels that are tax delinquent or foreclosed, vacant and/or abandoned, and utilize tools through the program to eliminate the harms and liabilities caused by such properties.
City of Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County officials and staff have been working for the past year to develop the process to form a city/county land bank. The working group created a proposed structure and priorities for the land bank and identified how properties could be transferred to the land bank. The land bank is seen as a valuable asset in providing an additional method to deal with properties that are not currently desirable in the private market and will encourage redevelopment and neighborhood stabilization.
Both the city and the county will identify properties for transfer to the land bank, and the county will provide initial startup funding, pending approval of the Dutchess County Legislature.
City Council Chair Sarah Salem and Council Member Sarah Brannen, who both participate in the working group, co-sponsored the resolution adopted by the council, authorizing the application to the Empire State Development, which administers the state land bank program.
“The Common Council has taken an important step toward creating a land bank that will benefit the entire city by addressing our vacant and abandoned properties, as well as supporting access to affordable home ownership and building our tax base,” Brannen said.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said the county is “eager to partner with the City of Poughkeepsie to address properties that are vacant and abandoned, to create a new and strategic way to acquire problem properties and convert these liabilities into assets for the community.”
The proposed land bank would have nine board members, two appointed each by the common council, county legislature, the mayor and the county executive – and one being a joint city and county appointee.
“We’re excited about the prospect of a land bank,” said Mayor Rob Rolison “It will be another tool in our toolbox as we continue to make headway in our ‘anti-blight’ campaign.”
Mayor Rolison created an Anti-Blight Task Force in 2018, which brings together internal and external stakeholders, including Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together Dutchess and Hudson River Housing. Since its inception, the task force has addressed approximately 200 vacant properties. The city had slightly more than 600 in 2018; that number is now approximately 400. The strategy has involved bolstering housing code enforcement, tracking and monitoring vacant properties and locating missing owners who have walked away from their properties.
The next step will be the authorization of the inter-municipal agreement by county lawmakers. A presentation is expected to be made to the full legislature with a vote on a resolution to be held in May. Following the anticipated passage of the resolution, the working group will submit an application to the state in June.
The City of Newburgh was the first municipality in the region to create a land bank. Sullivan County and the City of Kingston followed.