A.G. Schneiderman Awards $20M To Land Banks Across New York State

Community Revitalization Initiative Will Help New York Communities Restore Abandoned And Dangerous Properties

Schneiderman: We Are Empowering Local Communities To Rebuild Their Own Neighborhoods, House By House, Block By Block

SYRACUSE – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today joined with elected officials and staff from the Syracuse Land Bank to announce that his office has awarded $20 million to New York State land banks that are working to rebuild and restore neighborhoods hit hard by the housing crisis. The Attorney General’s Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative is making a new allocation of nearly $20 million to eligible land banks, in addition to the $13 million allocated through a competitive application process last year, bringing the total commitment to $33 million. Today’s announcement was made at 157 Maplewood Ave, one of 1,800 vacant and neglected structures in the City of Syracuse that negatively impact surrounding neighbor's quality of life and property values. This property is one of 50 homes undergoing renovation by the Greater Syracuse Land Bank, which has already received $3 million in funding from Attorney General Schneiderman’s office, and will be receiving nearly $2 million in additional funding as part of the second round of funding.

Funding for this new round will be drawn from the $25 billion settlement with the nation’s largest banks that the Attorney General helped negotiate in 2012. The following ten land banks in the State will receive funding: Greater Syracuse Land Bank; the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Bank Investment Corporation; the Rochester Land Bank; Newburgh Community Land Bank; Suffolk County Land Bank; Chautauqua County Land Bank; Capital Region Land Bank; Albany County Bank; Troy Community Land Bank, and the Broome County Land Bank.

“Land banks are a critical tool to help communities recover from the housing crisis by ridding their streets of vacant and abandoned properties,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “With this new round of funding, even more communities will reap the benefits of this powerful tool for urban revitalization. By funding and expanding land banks, we are empowering local communities to rebuild their own neighborhoods, house by house, block by block.”

“The additional funding from Attorney General Schneiderman’s Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative is welcome news,” Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said. “The money helps ensure the Greater Syracuse Land Bank will continue working to transform individual properties and neighborhoods.”

“The Greater Syracuse Land Bank has received nearly $5 million in support from Attorney General Schneiderman and over $2.5 million in pledges for private investment,” Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner said. “The land bank is transforming our City property by property. I appreciate the Attorney General’s ongoing commitment to this program.”

"This award will enable the Greater Syracuse Lank Bank to continue the excellent work it is doing to revitalize our neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for residents,” State Senator David Valesky said. “I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his continued leadership on this issue in Central New York and across the state."

“I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for his efforts in holding banks accountable for their role in the mortgage crisis,” Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli said. “By utilizing these funds to support the Greater Syracuse Land Bank in its continued work to revitalize our blighted neighborhoods, the Attorney General demonstrates his commitment to our community."

“I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for this vital grant to the Greater Syracuse Land Bank,” Assemblyman Al Stirpe said. “Urban revitalization efforts like land banks benefit not only cities, but also surrounding towns. For districts like mine, the potential downstream effects of an urban land bank include rising property values, the attraction of new industries to our communities, and more middle-class jobs.”

“The Greater Syracuse Land Bank is excited to continue its partnership with Attorney General Schneiderman to clean up abandoned properties that blight our neighborhoods," Katelyn Wright, Executive Director of the Greater Syracuse Land Bank, said. "This second round of funding will provide us with the critical resources needed to address the community’s abandoned property crisis. This kind of public support from state and local sources is critical to our success in the years ahead."

“We are very proud to be working with Attorney General Schneiderman as he combats the challenges associated with vacant and underutilized properties in Syracuse,” Kerry Quaglia, Executive Director of Home HeadQuarters, Inc., said. “It is through innovative approaches such as this that Home HeadQuarters was able to renovate and restore the vacant property at 157 Maplewood Ave and sell it to a first-time homebuyer who is eager to call a place “home” and become part of a neighborhood.”

“This funding of over $1.25 million will be a critical resource in our ongoing efforts to address problems in certain neighborhoods that have experienced many years of blight and also to return vacant properties to the tax rolls,” Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia said. “I would like to thank Attorney General Schneiderman for this commitment and we look forward to getting the Troy Community Land Bank up-and-running as quickly as possible.”

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.

However, the legislation that authorized land banks in New York did not provide funding for them. Attorney General Schneiderman launched the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative to fill that gap and allow land banks to fulfill their purpose. He has dedicated $33 million to fund that initiative. Earlier this year, the Attorney General’s bill to expand the number of land banks from 10 to 20 was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

The amounts awarded today are as follows: Greater Syracuse Land Bank (over $1.9 million); the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Bank Investment Corporation ($2.5 million); the Rochester Land Bank (over $1.8 million); Newburgh Community Land Bank (over $1.9 million); Suffolk County Land Bank (over $1.9 million); Chautauqua County Land Bank ($1.3 million); Capital Region Land Bank ($3 million); Albany County Bank (over $2.8 million); Troy Community Land Bank ($1.25 million), and the Broome County Land Bank ($800,000).

Abandoned and vacant properties depress property values, discourage property ownership, and attract criminal activity, but land banks provide tools to quickly turn these properties back into assets that reinvest in the community's long-term vision for its neighborhood. 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 Attorney General’s office has partnered with Enterprise Community Partners to assist with the oversight and management of the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative. Enterprise is a nonprofit organization with more than 30 years of experience providing technical assistance and support to affordable community revitalization efforts.