Law signed today by Gov. Cuomo allows county to purchase foreclosed property for the land bank under procedures established in county charter
New York State Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-I-Buffalo, and State Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-WF-Buffalo, announced legislation they sponsored in the Senate and Assembly to improve Erie County's land bank has been signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The legislation (S5167, A7245) makes corrections to the statewide land bank legislation that was passed in 2011.
To combat the continuing problem of vacant homes, New York state passed the land bank legislation, which empowered counties and municipalities to create land banks to purchase vacant and abandoned properties. The program allows counties and municipalities to get these properties back on the tax rolls and allow them to be occupied by people who will keep them properly maintained.
Erie County continues to have a large number of properties that are vacant and abandoned. These properties drive down the property value of neighborhoods, attract criminal activity and are a danger to the community, Grisanti's camp said. Erie County has an active land bank, formally known as "The Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation," which is doing tremendous work, the state senator's team continued. However, the land bank is hampered by provisions in the law, which prohibit it from purchasing properties under the county charter, a method by which many properties are auctioned off. The land bank legislation only applies to real property law, and Erie County is only able to foreclose on properties under provisions laid out in its county charter. The new law will correct this oversight in the original law, allowing the Erie County land bank to significantly increase its activity and get homes back on the tax rolls.
The law also amends the current land bank law that applied to judicially authorized sales. The law currently states that land banks can only bid on property at judicially authorized sales. Most foreclosure sales are not judicially authorized, they are done without involving a judge. The new law removes "judicially" and allows land banks to bid on property at any public sale.
The law also increases the maximum size of a land bank board to 15. The Erie County land bank has an inclusive board that is working with townships to more effectively solve the problem of abandoned properties in Western New York. In order to be more inclusive, however, it needs to be able to function as a larger board.
By adjusting these provisions in the land bank legislation, Erie County will be able to manage its land bank in a more productive manner.
"The current land bank law has proven to be extremely successful for Erie County and the City of Buffalo," Grisanti said. "These improvements to the land bank law will allow municipalities to have even greater abilities to combat and improve blight. With the successes we have seen from the initial land bank legislation, these improvements will continue to improve the quality of life for our citizens."
"These changes to the land bank legislation will greatly improve the effectiveness of the Erie County land bank," Ryan said. "The original legislation was a game-changer that allowed Erie County, the City of Buffalo, and other municipalities to create a land bank that has the potential to significantly reduce the number of vacant properties that negatively impact our communities. These common sense changes will help to strengthen that goal."
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said: "The Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation has the potential to be a powerful tool in addressing the vacant property problem in Western New York. However, in order for the land bank to reach its potential, amendments to the Land Bank Act were necessary. I want to thank Sen. Grisanti, Assemblyman Ryan, and the WNY delegation for supporting changes to the act and ensuring the land bank's usefulness in the fight against blighted, vacant and abandoned properties in our community."
Joseph Kelemen, executive director of the Western New York Law Center, said: "The Western New York Law Center applauds the New York State Legislature for passing amendments to the land bank bill that will allow the land bank in Erie County to more effectively deal with unoccupied, dilapidated houses, vacant buildings and open, empty lots that plague our neighborhoods. These abandoned properties demand constant and expensive attention from local governments, and this legislation will allow our land bank the means to take control of problem properties and leverage them to spur smart development and meet community needs."