Statement From A.G. Schneiderman On Passage Of Legislation Authorizing 10 New Land Banks

NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued the following statement in response to the passage today by the New York State Legislature of a bill authorizing ten new land banks in the State of New York:  

“I commend the State Legislature, and particularly the bill sponsors, Assemblyman Magnarelli and Senator Valesky, for passing legislation to increase the maximum number of land banks in New York State from 10 to 20. Land banks are a critical tool to help communities that are plagued by vacant and abandoned properties to recover from the housing crisis. My office is already funding eight land banks, from Long Island to the Hudson Valley to Central and Western New York, and more funds will be available in this year. By supporting land banks, we are empowering local communities to rebuild their own neighborhoods, house by house, block by block. ” 

The Attorney General’s program bill, sponsored in the Assembly by the Chairman of the Committee on Local Governments, William Magnarelli, and in the Senate by Senator David Valesky, changes state law to increase the maximum allowable number of land banks from 10 to 20. Many cities do not have land banks, but there is a critical need for the kind of community redevelopment that land banks can make possible. 

“I have seen firsthand in Central New York the positive effects a land bank can have in getting dilapidated and abandoned properties turned around and back on the tax rolls, thanks in large part to funding made available by the Attorney General,” said State Senator David Valesky. “I thank him for his leadership and I am pleased to have carried legislation to make this successful program available to more municipalities. ”

“Land banks are one of the most useful tools for jumpstarting community renewal projects,” said Assemblyman William Magnarelli. “Expanding the number of land banks throughout New York can provide job opportunities, raise property values and truly improve the overall quality of life for both business owners and homeowners. Passing this legislation would help give localities greater opportunities to rebuild dilapidated and forgotten properties in a way that better serves the needs of community members.”

“Land banks are an innovative tool that local governments, when authorized, can use to effectively convert vacant, abandoned and tax-foreclosed properties into productive use,” said Peter A. Baynes, Executive Director of the New York State Conference of Mayors. "The initial statutory authorization for ten land banks is already proving to be a success, and NYCOM applauds today's final passage of legislation to double the number of allowable land banks. NYCOM particularly appreciates the leadership of Attorney General Schneiderman, Senator Valesky and Assemblyman Magnarelli in expanding the tools available to local governments to attack the statewide problem of distressed and blighting properties." 

“In New York and across the country, we have seen land banks serve as a strategic tool to stabilize communities and eliminate blight,” said Tamar Shapiro, President and CEO of Center for Community Progress. “Attorney General Schneiderman’s legislation provides a wonderful opportunity for more communities across New York State to utilize land banking as a tool to combat the effects of recent and long standing economic decline.” 

“Land banks can be a critical tool to spur the creation of truly affordable housing for low income New Yorkers, and we appreciate the Attorney General’s leadership in pushing for the creation of land banks in the state,” said Josh Zinner, Co-Director of New Economy Project. 

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 choose to 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 the local economy. However, the legislation that authorized land banks in New York did not provide funding for them. Attorney General Schneiderman launched a Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative to fill that gap and allow the land banks to fulfill their purpose. He has dedicated $33 million to fund that initiative.  In February of this year, the Attorney General proposed his program bill to expand the number of land banks from 10 to 20.

Following are the first round of awards through the program, which were announced on October 29, 2013:

  • The Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Bank Corporation was awarded $2.087 million; 
  • The Rochester Land Bank Corporation was awarded $2.78 million;
  • The Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation was awarded $3 million; 
  • The Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation was awarded $1.5 million; 
  • The Newburgh Community Land Bank was awarded $2.45 million; 
  • The Suffolk County Land Bank Corporation was awarded $675,000; 
  • The Capital Region Land Bank was awarded $150,000; and
  • The Broome County Land Bank was awarded $150,000.

Attorney General Schneiderman first announced last June that he would dedicate National Mortgage Settlement funds to support land banks. In July, he opened the first round of the competitive Request for Applications (RFA) process. 

The projects selected for funding will carry out a range of vital community development activities, including demolition of blighted, vacant, and abandoned homes; acquisition and renovation of vacant homes, including remediation of environmental hazards; resale of renovated properties as affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families; acquisition of vacant land that will be transferred to existing community residents who will maintain and repurpose the underutilized open space; and environmental pre-development studies and analyses that will eventually lead to remediation and redevelopment of brownfield sites. Proceeds from the resale of renovated properties will go back to the land banks and allow them to continue their work.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative will particularly benefit cities and counties that have struggled to maintain local services despite significant declines in tax revenue as a result of the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent epidemic of vacant and abandoned properties. The eight land banks funded have committed to return hundreds of properties to productive use and to get those lots back on the local and county tax rolls over the next 24 months.

The land banks are also using Attorney General Schneiderman’s funding to leverage additional resources from both private and public sources in order to expand their community revitalization efforts. A conservative estimate suggests that the land banks will be able to access a combined total of more than $21 million in other public and private funding over the next two years.

Finally, the Attorney General is providing most grantees with funds to hire full-time staff, which will allow the land banks to expand operations and seek long-term sustainable sources of funding.

A request for second round proposals will be issued this summer.

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