The beneficiaries are land banks from Erie County/Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Chautauqua County, Newburgh, and Suffolk County chartered in the past two years to assist revitalization efforts in distressed communities dealing with vacant, abandoned and dilapidated properties.
Grants are part of a two-year $20 million program. It is funded by money the nation’s largest banks awarded to the state in 2012 through the national mortgage settlement to rebuild hit hard neighborhoods.
Vacant and abandoned properties attract crime and drag down property values, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stated in a press release. “By funding land banks across New York, we are helping to empower local communities” and local governments already struggling with blight and a declining tax base.
The initiative has been two years in the making. In 2011 the New York State Legislature passed a law that allows the creation of land banks as nonprofit organizations whose purpose is to acquire vacant, abandoned, or foreclosed properties for demolition, reconstruction or redesign. The law chartered land banks in an effort to lower redevelopment costs for local governments, benefit public schools, reduce crime and boost the local economy.
The legislation authorized land banks to operate in New York but did not provide funding, so to fill the gap Schneiderman launched the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative.
Schneiderman first announced his intention to dedicate national mortgage settlement funds to support land banks in June.
The following month he opened the first round of the competitive grant application process for projects designed to carry out “a range of vital community development activities” including demolition, acquisition, renovation and resale of renovated properties as affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families.
The land bank initiative will help fund the recovery across the state of New York, really jump-start the neighborhood revitalization process, attract new buyers, continue efforts to remediate environmental damages, and ultimately increase the city’s tax base, says Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy.
Schneiderman is trying to balance demand and supply. The AG committed $2 million to the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp. including an allocation of $1 million for demolitions in the City of Buffalo.
“Buffalo cannot reach its full potential until abandoned and blighted properties are removed,” says Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz. The city has demolished 4,796 vacant buildings since 2006, generating more economic development the area has seen in generations.
The Syracuse and Onondaga county land banks also are up and running. Officials from both counties collaborated to launch the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corp., one of the first land banks in the state, says Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. “The funding comes as our land bank has begun seizing tax-delinquent properties for redevelopment or demolition.”
The first round includes approximately $2 million to the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Bank Corp., $2.8 million to the Rochester Land Bank Corp., $3 million to the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corp., $1.5 million to the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corp., $2.5 million to the Newburgh Community Land Bank and roughly $700,000 to the Suffolk County Land Bank Corp.
The second round of applications is expected to open in June 2014.