The Adirondacks are in the midst of a housing crisis. Across the region, there is a shortage of housing units that can be afforded by low and middle income families. Effects of the shortage impact the entire community and regional economy.
According to NCPR coverage of the housing crisis in Old Forge, the pandemic-spurred sale of second homes and the short-term rental market boom are contributing to the problem, leaving locals and seasonal workers with few affordable options. Some have had to relocate to find affordable housing, too far to commute to existing jobs. The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported in 2020 on the crisis in Lake Placid, where “the lack of affordable housing touches nearly every part of the community, from the local school district’s enrollment … to the ability of local business owners to recruit and retain staff, who often struggle to find a place to live.”
AdkAction is starting a new project to address the shortage of affordable housing units by taking a lead role in catalyzing the development of a regional land bank, a tool that could potentially help address our regional housing challenges. Land Banks exist to acquire, manage, maintain, and repurpose properties in a manner consistent with the communities’ values and needs. Land Banks can also purchase properties or accept donated properties and develop them to create more housing units.
Land banks were created in direct response to the growing trend of property vacancy and abandonment resulting from the housing crisis and Great Recession in 2008. Land Banks are created to strategically acquire problem properties and revive them for the best community use, not just resell to the highest bidder. Essentially, land banks acquire problem properties, eliminate liabilities, and transfer the properties to new, responsible owners in a transparent manner that results in outcomes consistent with community-based plans. At their best, land banks can overcome some of the most difficult barriers to returning properties to productive use and convert them into assets for community revitalization.
Our new Land Bank project’s goal is to convene a regional conversation on the opportunity to form one or more land banks in the Adirondacks. As part of this project we are creating a working group that will meet regularly, host informational webinars featuring land bank experts, targeted at local elected officials and other leaders who we hope will become interested in applying for a NYS Land Bank slot through Empire State Development.
AdkAction Executive Director Brittany Christenson recently participated in a Northern Forest Center housing affinity group webinar for an informative conversation about the opportunity that land banks offer to help communities meet their housing and community development goals. Tolga Morawski of the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank and Katelyn Wright of the Greater Syracuse Land Bank joined the discussion to shed light on the community impact achieved through the land banks they represent and provide insights into the different ways that land banks can be configured.