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Schneiderman awards $2.5 million to Buffalo Land Bank

by jmaloni


Thu, Oct 16th 2014 05:55 pm

Total of $20 million to land banks across New York

Community revitalization initiative designed to help New York communities restore abandoned and dangerous properties

Joined by elected officials and staff from the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Bank, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced his office has awarded $20 million to New York state land banks working to rebuild and restore neighborhoods hit hard by the housing crisis. Of that total, more than $2.5 million was earmarked for the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Bank Investment Corp.

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 on Northland Avenue on Buffalo's East Side, the heart of the community the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Bank Investment Corp. hopes to redevelop with funds provided by the attorney general's office, in partnership with the City of Buffalo.

"Land banks are a powerful tool to help communities statewide rid their streets of vacant properties that attract crime and drag down property values," Schneiderman said. "With this new round of funding, we are doubling our commitment to Buffalo's revitalization, including the ongoing redevelopment of the East Side. By expanding land banks, we can continue to empower more communities to rebuild their own neighborhoods, house by house, block by block."

This year's award of $2.5 million to BENLIC will bring the total investment in Buffalo to just over $4.5 million over three years. Those funds will enable BENLIC to expand its rehabilitation program to target the Northland Avenue Belt Line Corridor, a priority area for redevelopment on the east side of Buffalo. BENLIC expects to complete 12-16 rehabilitations of distressed homes, and 50-75 demolitions over the next two years throughout the region.

Funding for this new round will be drawn from the $25 billion settlement with the nation's largest banks that Schneiderman helped negotiate in 2012. The following 10 land banks in the state will receive funding: Greater Syracuse Land Bank, the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Bank Investment Corp., 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.

"Vacant and abandoned property casts a shadow over neighborhoods across the City of Buffalo and Western New York," Congressman Brian Higgins said. "Attorney General Schneiderman's successful fight to secure a federal settlement is providing needed resources to help local communities fight the blight and take back our communities."

"The land bank has been a critical instrument in the fight against the dilapidated, abandoned houses that dot our communities and lower our property values," Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. "Since its inception in 2012, the land bank has been a positive factor for change across our region, helping to restore housing to the tax rolls and mend the fabric of neighborhoods, I would like to thank my partner in government, Attorney General Schneiderman, for his focus on this issue and his commitment to addressing vacant properties."

"I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his continued focus on revitalizing neighborhood's in Buffalo through the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp., giving our city the tools and resources needed to help us reach our full potential," said City of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. "Our land bank is an important tool for the revitalization of neighborhoods in Buffalo, creating jobs and opportunities for small businesses."

Jocelyn Gordon, executive director of the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp., said, "Western New York is reinventing itself before our very eyes. For those of us with a long history in this region, we are witnessing progress, which we likely never imagined could occur in our lifetime. Many thanks to the office of the attorney general for their continued confidence in BENLIC, and for providing this tremendous catalyst to spur continued development in Buffalo and beyond. "

During the decade of the housing boom and bust, from 2000-10, the number of vacant properties in New York increased 27 percent. 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. The AG said that, by restoring vacant or abandoned properties, land banks lower costs for local governments, benefit public schools, reduce crime and boost local economies.

The legislation that authorized land banks in New York did not provide funding for them. 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. Last month, 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 Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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

In the first round of funding provided by the OAG, six land banks received grants and, to date, they have each made progress. The attorney general's funds are assisting land banks in building their capacity so they are able to take on these types of community redevelopment initiatives, as well as enabling the land banks to begin implementing their local community development plans.

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.

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