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Schneiderman announces awards to 18 cities & towns for tools to address, transform problem homes and buildings

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Mon, Jun 12th 2017 01:00 pm
Cities for Responsible Investment and Strategic Enforcement ('Cities RISE') will invest more than $10 million over 2 years to advance neighborhood revitalization
Funding For 'Cities RISE' secured through Schneiderman's 2016 settlements with banks 
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has announced the winners of the first phase of the Cities for Responsible Investment and Strategic Enforcement ("Cities RISE") grant awards, an investment that will total more than $10 million over the next two years to 18 cities and towns across New York state. The program aims to innovatively address and transform blighted, vacant or poorly maintained problem properties through the use of housing and community data from various state agencies.
Launched in April , Cities RISE advances Schneiderman's comprehensive strategy for helping New York families and communities rebuild from the housing crisis. Since taking office, the attorney general has obtained settlements with large financial institutions to address misconduct that contributed to the collapse of the housing market - bringing more than $95 billion to communities across the country and over $5.5 billion to New York state alone. With those funds, the office of the attorney general has established several consumer programs, from the homeowners protection program (HOPP) to the land bank community revitalization initiative, all with the goal of helping New Yorkers become homeowners, avoid foreclosure, and improve blight in their communities.
"Too many New Yorkers are still struggling in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis. That's why my office is investing the dollars we secured from the banks, to provide the tools necessary to rebuild and strengthen our neighborhoods," Schneiderman said. " 'Cities RISE' presents a 21st century approach to overcoming this crisis and revitalizing New York's communities."
The 18 grantees - selected by national community development nonprofits Enterprise Community Partners and the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) - which are managing the program - will receive a two-year subscription to a data platform designed to integrate and analyze data such as code enforcement records, tax liens and fire and police data.
"Cites RISE" partnered with Tolemi (formerly known as OpportunitySpace), a social enterprise that created BuildingBlocks, a platform designed to integrate housing and code enforcement-related data, and was selected for this program following significant research and consultation with numerous industry experts. 
Additionally, grantees will receive capacity-building support from Spruce Technology, and the program will be guided by a senior advisory team made up of issue area experts specializing in community revitalization and engagement. The senior advisory team includes Alan Mallach, Senior Fellow at Center for Community Progress; Betsy MacLean, executive director of Hester Street Collaborative; Ira Goldstein, president of policy solutions at the Reinvestment Fund; and Joseph Schilling, senior research associate at the Urban Institute.
Future phases of the program may include additional change management resources, support to develop a community collaborative, and an innovation grant to launch new programs.
The awarded municipalities included Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
"Enterprise recognizes the value of data to local governments and strongly believes that code enforcement can be a powerful tool to strengthen our communities," said Judi Kende, vice president and market leader, Enterprise Community Partners. "Enterprise is proud to partner with Attorney General Schneiderman and LISC to create 'Cities RISE' and provide this unique opportunity to communities across the state, helping to build equity and improve lives for all residents."
"It takes a lot more than good intentions to tackle blight in ways that respond to the local needs of New York's cities, towns and villages," noted Denise Scott, executive vice president at LISC. "With 'Cities RISE,' these municipal leaders are making a strong strategic commitment to a better quality of life in their communities. LISC is looking forward to working with them, the attorney general's staff and Enterprise to tailor strategies that drive lasting economic and social gains."
"I'm excited to see that AG Schneiderman's 'Cities RISE' initiative is moving forward, and that the first group of 18 cities and towns are receiving awards. This program will raise the bar for how local governments deal with problem properties, not just in these cities and towns, but statewide. I'm looking forward to following their progress over the next two years," Mallach said.
"While the recession has officially ended, it is easy to forget that there are countless families and communities still feeling its effects. And as federal funding to our cities for housing and community development continues to decline, the financial, technical and human resources provided by 'Cities RISE' will be an invaluable tool to continue to deal with the physical blight left behind. Attorney General Schneiderman is to be commended for ensuring that the settlement dollars will prepare communities for meaningful reinvestment," Goldstein said
"Our research through the Vacant Properties Research Network confirms local officials must have a solid data system, which integrates different types of information about problem properties - from property conditions and ownership to case management - to address the wide range of vacant and abandoned properties they confront in their communities. Attorney General Schneiderman's investment through the 'RISE' program will help dozens of New York communities to wage a more effective, efficient and equitable campaign against blight," said Joe Schilling, senior researcher, Urban Institute; co-director of the VPR Network; and member of "Cities RISE" senior advisory team.
"Untangling the complicated mix of causes and effects of blight has the power not only to address persistent property problems, but to strengthen communities. 'Cities RISE' will equip municipalities with the tools they need to strengthen both their physical and social infrastructure - making them more resilient now and long into the future," MacLean said.
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "The 'Cities RISE' grant will help Niagara Falls both eliminate information silos and make smart neighborhood investments, supported by real-time data. Modern municipal technology is a necessity rather than a luxury. Thank you to Attorney General Schneiderman for continuously assisting New York state local governments to build up our communities."

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