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Rochester Land Bank approved

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The City of Rochester has been given state approval to establish one of the state’s ten Land Banks.

The city’s Land Bank will support the acquisition of vacant, tax-delinquent properties which will then be  renovated and sold through the HOME Rochester program. The aim is to also get more properties back on the tax roll.

Bret Garwood is the director of business and housing development for the City of Rochester. He says vacant buildings can de-value a neighborhood and the Land Bank could help change that.

“We hope that this will be another tool to use to help minimize the impact of vacant properties,” Garwood says.

“Any time there’s a vacant property on a street it’s going to impact the surrounding properties’ values. We feel that if we can gain control of some of these properties where we can partner with community-based organizations, they can make a vacant property a real asset.”  

The new Land Bank will definitely have its work cut out for it, with around 2,100 privately owned vacant properties in the city.

But, Garwood says the agency will be starting small, aiming to acquire 25 properties per year to renovate and sell to first time home owners.

Garwood says the Land Bank will help community development programs like HOME Rochester save up to $18,000 per property in acquisition fees, such as legal and survey costs.

A land bank was launched in Syracuse last May, targeting nearly 3 and half thousand properties.

Five land banks were established in a previous round of grants, including the Syracuse operation, and many struggled with how to make operations self-funding at the time.

But, Garwood says Rochester’s land bank will be staffed by current city employees, and he doesn’t foresee a need for extra funding at this time.

“At this point we really don’t see any funding requirements for the land bank, it will really be dependent on a property by property basis.”

Garwood says the city hopes to have the Land Bank officially operating before the end of 2013.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail
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