This Round Of Funding Brings OAG Support For Land Banks To $57 Million Since 2013, Boosting Neighborhood Revitalization Efforts Statewide
Funding Made Possible By Schneiderman’s 2016 Settlement Agreements With Morgan Stanley And Goldman Sachs
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced $20.9 million in new grants to 19 land banks that are working to protect homeowners and neighborhoods across the state by acquiring abandoned properties and returning them to productive use. This new funding brings Attorney General Schneiderman’s total investment in land banks to $57 million since 2013.
The grants were awarded under the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative (CRI). The Office of the Attorney General established the initiative in 2013 with funding secured through settlements with the nation’s largest banks over misconduct that contributed to the housing crisis. As of November 2016, when the Office of the Attorney General published “Revitalizing New York State,” a report on the land bank initiative, the New York land banks had:
- Reclaimed more than 1,995 abandoned properties
- Returned over 700 properties to market
- Demolished 409 unstable structures
- Preserved $19 million in property value for surrounding homes
This round of funding, which was made possible by settlements the Attorney General secured last year with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, provides renewal grants to the state’s original ten land banks and start-up grants to nine more newly established land banks, many of which are in rural areas across the state.
“Communities throughout New York are still suffering the fallout from the housing crisis, and my office will continue to support innovative efforts to help them recover,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “With today’s round of grants, all 19 land banks will build on the significant accomplishments already achieved over the past three years, helping put abandoned properties back into use, revitalizing towns and cities, and creating a safer, more stable, and more vibrant environment for New York’s families.”
The grant program is being managed by two community development intermediary organizations, Enterprise Community Partners and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which oversaw the application process, selected the grantees, and will be providing technical assistance to the land banks as they implement their plans.
The following grants were announced today:
- Albany County Land Bank Corporation $1,040,834
- Broome County Land Bank Corporation $ 650,870
- Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation $1,230,000
- Capital Region Land Reutilization Corporation $1,700,000
- Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation $1,110,000
- Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation $2,000,000
- Newburgh Community Land Bank $2,000,000
- Rochester Land Bank Corporation $1,500,000
- Suffolk County Landbank Corporation $1,230,000
- Troy Community Land Bank $ 701,587
- Allegany County Land Bank $ 360,000
- Cattaraugus County Land Bank $ 764,625
- Finger Lakes Regional Land Bank $ 500,000
- Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank $1,642,800
- Nassau County Land Bank $1,210,541
- Oswego County Land Bank $1,000,000
- Sullivan County Land Bank $ 920,000
- Chemung County Land Bank $ 893,100
- Steuben County Land Bank $ 500,000
Examples of funded projects include the following:
- The Albany County Land Bank will leverage creative partnerships with local housing organizations to revitalize Albany’s five most distressed neighborhoods, which are Sheridan Hollow, Arbor Hill, the South End and West Hill and West End, including turning vacant lots into vibrant spaces.
- The Capital Region Land Bank will utilize funding to strategically target revitalization efforts in communities challenged by high poverty and vacancy rates, including Schenectady's Mount Pleasant neighborhood and Amsterdam's East End. Redevelopment projects facilitated by the Land Bank will include the transformation of a large blighted building near two college campuses into affordable rental apartments.
- The Troy Community Land Bank will continue to focus revitalization efforts on one of the most distressed census tracts in the City, with the aim of acquiring up to 24 vacant and abandoned properties and stabilizing and/or rehabilitating up to 16 of them, and demolishing those which are beyond the point of repair.
- The Newburgh land bank will create fifty affordable rental units, help ten families realize their dream of home ownership, and – so that nothing goes to waste – recycle materials from demolished properties for use in future renovations.
- The new Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank is piloting an innovative collaboration among four counties and two cities to significantly ramp up efforts to eradicate the blight of abandoned properties.
- The Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation (BENLIC) will use the new funding to stabilize the most distressed properties in the Land Bank’s 2017-2018 inventory, which are located in low- to moderate-income communities. BENLIC will also complete a modular construction demonstration project in the Lovejoy neighborhood of the City of Buffalo.
- The Rochester Land Bank Corporation (RLBC) will use new funds to carry out three programs: 1) Strategic Blight Removal which will facilitate up to 10 demolitions of blighted structures; 2) The Homeownership Assistance Program for Vacant Houses, a new initiative to assist first-time homeowners to purchase vacant homes with subsidies for renovations; 3) To develop a scattered-site affordable rental housing project that will produce at least 20 units of affordable housing.
- The Greater Syracuse Land Bank (GSLB) will use new funds to complete up to 70 demolitions of deteriorated structures and up to 10 substantial rehabilitations of single family homes to be sold to low-income residents.
- The Broome County Land Bank Corporation (BCLBC) will use new funds to acquire, demolish, and rehabilitate up to 17 foreclosed or abandoned properties in Broome County. Investment will be focused on two low-income areas in the County—the urban core of the Village of Johnson City and the City of Binghamton’s West Side.
- The Suffolk County Landbank Corporation (SCLBC) will use new funds to: 1. Complete up to 10 environmental assessments and redevelop vacant, tax delinquent commercial properties; and 2. Rehabilitate up to 12 former zombie homes.
During the decade of the housing boom and bust, from 2000 to 2010, the number of vacant properties in New York State increased 27%. Following the collapse of the housing market, the New York State Legislature passed a law in 2011 establishing land banks — nonprofit organizations that can acquire vacant, abandoned, or foreclosed properties and rebuild, demolish, or redesign them. By restoring vacant or abandoned properties, land banks lower costs for local governments, benefit public schools, reduce crime and boost local economies.
Building on the foundation laid by the legislation, Attorney General Schneiderman launched the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative to provide funding and allow land banks to fulfill their purpose. With this round of funding, the A.G.’s office will have dedicated a total of $57 million to fund New York land banks. In 2014, the Attorney General’s bill to expand the number of land banks from 10 to 20 became law.
Land bank programs act as an economic and community development tool to revitalize distressed neighborhoods and business districts. Land banks can benefit urban schools, improve tax revenues, expand housing opportunities, remove public nuisances, assist in crime prevention and promote economic development.
By transferring vacant and abandoned properties to responsible land owners, local governments benefit because they avoid the significant cost burden of property maintenance, such as mowing and snow removal. In addition, local governments benefit from increased revenue because the new owners pay taxes on the properties. In turn, local schools benefit because they receive more funding when there is an increase in the number of property owners in their school districts. Land bank programs can also increase the variety of mixed-income housing offered and provide more opportunities for affordable housing.
Land bank properties that become owner-occupied discourage criminal activity, benefiting public safety and decreasing the cost burden on local police and fire departments. Finally, the more residents and businesses that occupy property in a neighborhood, the more services and amenities will be needed, which boosts local economic activity.
The land bank initiative is one component of the Attorney General’s comprehensive strategy for helping New York families and communities rebuild from the housing crisis. He has led the fight to hold the banks accountable for their recklessness and responsible for mitigating the damage they caused. He has obtained settlements that brought more than $95 billion to communities across the country.
More than $5.5 billion of that settlement money has come into New York State alone. With those funds, the Office of the Attorney General has also:
- Established the Homeowners Protection Program, HOPP, in 2012, which has funded nearly 90 agencies across the state and has provided legal services and counseling to help nearly 70,000 families stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure; nearly a third of them have mortgage modifications pending or approved.
- Created a web-based app,agscamhelp.com, a tool to help at-risk homeowners avoid mortgage foreclosure scams, including Deed Theft. More than 175,000 consumers have used the app since launch in 2014.
- Established the New York State Mortgage Assistance Program (MAP) in 2014. Since it began, MAP has provided $18 million in small loans to homeowners to clear other debts and qualify for mortgage modifications; it has prevented more than 650 foreclosures and preserved $153 million in property value for nearby homeowners. The Attorney General recently announced a $100 million expansion of MAP.
- Launched the Zombie and Vacant Property Remediation and Prevention Initiative, providing almost $13 million in grants to 76 villages, towns, and cities across the state to combat the blight of abandoned foreclosure properties.
- Launched “Neighbors for Neighborhoods” in August 2016, a $4 million pilot program that enables land banks to provide subsidies for local community members to take over individual, abandoned properties and convert them into long-term affordable rental units.