Officials begin organizing new area land bank to help fight blight

Local News

Regional leaders are learning about how joining the Erie County Land Bank could impact their communities. Blight does not form overnight and the solution will not either, but regional leaders learning about the success stories of other communities and how it could be duplicated here. 

Officials across Pennsylvania are tackling blight with land banks.  How?  They say by getting abandoned properties back on the tax rolls.

An Lewis, Executive Director of Tri-Cog Land Bank, says the goal is “to take properties that are abandoned. They’re unoccupied. They’re not doing anything. We take legal control of those properties. We clear the liens and titles, and then we put them back into productive use.”

Legislation passed last year, redirecting money from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA) to support the formation of the Erie Land Bank.

Couty Executive Kathy Dahlkemper says, “One of the great things is we have a resource already knowing we have a million dollars annually from gaming funds. That’s something that most land banks don’t have when they start off.”

The authority will generate other revenue once a property is put back on the tax roll or its value reassessed.  Half of the property taxes would go to the Erie County Land Bank for the first five years.

“So, one of the key questions with the authority,” Dahlkemper tells us, “is going to be, ‘how do you disburse those funds in a way that is fair and equitable?'”

According to Erie Refocused, there are 1900 abandoned housing units in the city of Erie.  There are another 54 properties on the judicial sale outside of the city of Erie limits that are blighted and delinquent with taxes but could be even more properties in need of help.

Executive Director of the Erie Area Council of Governments, Jessica Horan-Kunco, says, “Part of this process as the county puts together a land bank is to help to drill down on those numbers on what the blight numbers are for all of the municipalities of Erie County.”

There are limitations, such as a land bank cannot use eminent domain.  So far, no agreements have been signed between municipalities and the county.  

Dahlkemper says the county still needs to file articles of incorporation, but if everything goes as planned, she says the land bank should be ready to acquire property by the end of the year. 

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