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Our opinion: Land Bank fee likely coming

Warren County Land Bank officials are requesting a $15 fee on deed transfers and mortgages to pay for housing demolition efforts in Warren County.

Money raised in the city of Warren would stay in Warren for demolitions while money raised throughout the rest of the county would go to the land bank. The fee would have raised about $2,000 in December for the land bank and $600 for the city, while a similar fee in another county raised enough money to pay for about 50 housing demolitions.

Land bank board members have approved sending the request to the Warren County Commissioners for approval, though one member suggested the fee is unfair to those buying and selling homes because they are the ones paying for properties that were allowed to fall into disrepair.

In our view, the request shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Land banks are a good way to deal with properties that need to be demolished, but they are only as effective as the funding they receive. In New York, land banks were a revolutionary tool when they were funded by the state with money received from bank fines after the subprime mortgage lending crisis. Warren County didn’t have that type of funding when it started its land bank, instead receiving $45,000 over three years from Warren County.

Without a funding source the land bank might as well disband. The choices, as we see them, are these: secure state funding, which isn’t guaranteed from year to year; city and county funding; or the types of fees proposed last week by land bank members.

In reality, Warren County Commissioners have two questions to address when they consider the land bank’s request – whether the county needs the land bank and, if the answer to that question is yes, the best way to pay for the land bank.

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