Funding Made Possible By Schneiderman’s 2016 Settlement Agreements With Morgan Stanley And Goldman Sachs
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced $20.9 million in new grants to 19 land banks that are working to protect homeowners and neighborhoods across the state by acquiring abandoned properties and returning them to productive use. This new funding brings Attorney General Schneiderman’s total investment in land banks to $57 million since 2013.
The grants were awarded under the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative. The Office of the Attorney General established the initiative in 2013 with funding secured through settlements with the nation’s largest banks over misconduct that contributed to the housing crisis. As of November 2016, when the Office of the Attorney General published “Revitalizing New York State,” a report on the land bank initiative, the New York land banks had:
- Reclaimed more than 1,995 abandoned properties
- Returned over 700 properties to market
- Demolished 409 unstable structures
- Preserved $19 million in property value for surrounding homes
This round of funding, which was made possible by settlements the Attorney General secured last year with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, provides renewal grants to the state’s original ten land banks and start-up grants to nine more newly established land banks, many of which are in rural areas across the state.
“Communities throughout New York are still suffering the fallout from the housing crisis, and my office will continue to support innovative efforts to help them recover,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “With today’s round of grants, all 19 land banks will build on the significant accomplishments already achieved over the past three years, helping put abandoned properties back into use, revitalizing towns and cities, and creating a safer, more stable, and more vibrant environment for New York’s families.”
The Attorney General was joined for the announcement by Saretha Sotomayor. The Sotomayor family are the new owners of a long-vacant home on Clinton Avenue. The home was acquired by the Albany County Land Bank and refurbished in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. The land bank and Habitat are partnering to rehabilitate four additional properties in the area.
“The tremendous support the Albany County Land Bank has received from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman enables us to reclaim vacant properties that have been harming our communities for years and responsibly return them to productive use,” said Adam Zaranko, Executive Director of the Albany County Land Bank Corporation. “These funds, combined with the strong support of Albany County, have enabled our land bank to emerge as a leader in the ongoing efforts to eliminate blight and increase homeownership opportunities to help stabilize neighborhoods throughout the County. We thank the Attorney General for this new allocation of funding and look forward to working with all of our partners to strengthen communities in every part of Albany County.”
“My family lived for a time in a homeless shelter, so my husband and I are so grateful for the opportunity the Albany County Land Bank and Habitat for Humanity provided, allowing us to buy our first home and provide stable housing for our children and grandchildren,” said first-time homebuyer Saretha Sotomayor. “Thank you to Attorney General Schneiderman for supporting land banks across the state, so that other families can achieve their dreams the way we achieved ours.”
Richard Ruzzo, Capital Region Land Bank Chairman and a member of the Schenectady County Legislature said, “We are honored to receive this funding and look forward to continuing the Land Bank’s efforts to restore, revitalize and reinvigorate our neighborhoods. We appreciate the great work that Attorney General Schneiderman is doing to protect homeowners and boost neighborhoods in New York State.”
“The Land Banks of New York State are specially crafted tools, customized to each locality, that compliment the private market, and the programs of not-for-profit developers and municipalities,” said Joe Fama, Director of the Troy Community Land Bank. “We are thankful to the Attorney General for the wisdom and generosity with which he has created and supplied these innovative and effective instruments of renewal for the disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout our state. Today’s announcement is a welcome show of continued confidence and support in the accomplishments and potential of New York State’s Land Banks.”
The grant program is being managed by two community development intermediary organizations, Enterprise Community Partners and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which oversaw the application process, selected the grantees, and will be providing technical assistance to the land banks as they implement their plans.
The following grants were announced today:
- Albany County Land Bank Corporation $1,040,834
- Broome County Land Bank Corporation $ 650,870
- Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation $1,230,000
- Capital Region Land Reutilization Corporation $1,700,000
- Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation $1,110,000
- Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation $2,000,000
- Newburgh Community Land Bank $2,000,000
- Rochester Land Bank Corporation $1,500,000
- Suffolk County Landbank Corporation $1,230,000
- Troy Community Land Bank $ 701,587
- Allegany County Land Bank $ 360,000
- Cattaraugus County Land Bank $ 764,625
- Finger Lakes Regional Land Bank $ 500,000
- Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank $1,642,800
- Nassau County Land Bank $1,210,541
- Oswego County Land Bank $1,000,000
- Sullivan County Land Bank $ 920,000
- Chemung County Land Bank $ 893,100
- Steuben County Land Bank $ 500,000
Examples of funded projects include the following:
- The Albany County Land Bank will leverage creative partnerships with local housing organizations to revitalize Albany’s five most distressed neighborhoods, which are Sheridan Hollow, Arbor Hill, the South End and West Hill and West End, including turning vacant lots into vibrant spaces.
- The Capital Region Land Bank will utilize funding to strategically target revitalization efforts in communities challenged by high poverty and vacancy rates, including Schenectady’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood and Amsterdam’s East End. Redevelopment projects facilitated by the Land Bank will include the transformation of a large blighted building near two college campuses into affordable rental apartments.
- The Troy Community Land Bank will continue to focus revitalization efforts on one of the most distressed census tracts in the City, with the aim of acquiring up to 24 vacant and abandoned properties and stabilizing and/or rehabilitating up to 16 of them, and demolishing those which are beyond the point of repair.
- The Newburgh land bank will create fifty affordable rental units, help ten families realize their dream of home ownership, and – so that nothing goes to waste – recycle materials from demolished properties for use in future renovations.
- The new Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank is piloting an innovative collaboration among four counties and two cities to significantly ramp up efforts to eradicate the blight of abandoned properties.
- The Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation (BENLIC) will use the new funding to stabilize the most distressed properties in the Land Bank’s 2017-2018 inventory, which are located in low- to moderate-income communities. BENLIC will also complete a modular construction demonstration project in the Lovejoy neighborhood of the City of Buffalo.
- The Rochester Land Bank Corporation (RLBC) will use new funds to carry out three programs: 1) Strategic Blight Removal which will facilitate up to 10 demolitions of blighted structures; 2) The Homeownership Assistance Program for Vacant Houses, a new initiative to assist first-time homeowners to purchase vacant homes with subsidies for renovations; 3) To develop a scattered-site affordable rental housing project that will produce at least 20 units of affordable housing.
- The Greater Syracuse Land Bank (GSLB) will use new funds to complete up to 70 demolitions of deteriorated structures and up to 10 substantial rehabilitations of single family homes to be sold to low-income residents.
- The Broome County Land Bank Corporation (BCLBC) will use new funds to acquire, demolish, and rehabilitate up to 17 foreclosed or abandoned properties in Broome County. Investment will be focused on two low-income areas in the County—the urban core of the Village of Johnson City and the City of Binghamton’s West Side.
- The Suffolk County Landbank Corporation (SCLBC) will use new funds to: 1. Complete up to 10 environmental assessments and redevelop vacant, tax delinquent commercial properties; and 2. Rehabilitate up to 12 former zombie homes.
“Land banks are a critical tool for revitalizing communities across the state that were hit hard by the foreclosure crisis,” said Judi Kende, vice president and New York market leader, Enterprise Community Partners. “Enterprise is honored to work with the NYS Attorney General and LISC to support necessary but hard-to-fund programs like this that help build capacity at the local level, renovate buildings, and remediate blight to restore neighborhoods and commercial hubs throughout New York.”
“LISC is thrilled to be partnering with Attorney General Schneiderman and Enterprise Community Partners to make sure land banks all across New York State can transform blighted and abandoned properties into high-quality affordable homes that improve the economic outlook for their communities,” said Denise Scott, LISC executive vice president. “This isn’t just an investment in housing; it’s an investment in safer streets, healthier families, thriving business climates and growth for the future.”
“I want to thank the Sotomayor family for their selfless commitment to community service and congratulate them on their new home. Attorney General Schneiderman has shown impressive leadership with this innovative approach to expanding affordable housing and revitalizing our communities. I am pleased that Albany County has joined in this effort. As a member of Congress, I will continue to build on the progress we have made at all levels of government to ensure that affordable housing options are available to more New Yorkers and all who need it throughout the nation,” said Representative Paul Tonko (NY-20).
“I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for the continued success of the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative (CRI) and am pleased that as part of the third round of grants the three Capital Region land banks—Albany County Land Bank, Capital Region Land Bank, and the Troy Community Land Bank—will receive a total of $3.4 million. Land banks play an integral role in helping to revitalize neighborhoods serving as economic engines for our communities. They expand the tax base, reducing the burden on current taxpayers, while at the same time bringing abandoned properties back to productive use,” said Senator Neil Breslin.
Assemblymember John T. McDonald III said, “I am appreciative of Attorney General Schneiderman’s continued support for the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative as the third round is being awarded here in the Capital Region. I am especially grateful for the support of the Albany County and Troy Community Land Banks. The Land Bank, an effort I supported at its inception when I previously served as a Mayor and the Attorney General was serving as a State Senator, has proven time and time again to be a crucial tool in the revitalization of our communities especially in areas hardest hit with blight and abandoned properties. Additionally, the story of the Sotomayor family is one that we all celebrate as they are realizing their dream of home ownership and with the support of the efforts of the Attorney General we can only expect to see greater success for others in the future.”
“The Land Bank initiative continues to improve neighborhoods in the Capital Region and across the State,” said Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara. “I thank Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his continued commitment to providing the much-needed support for municipalities like Schenectady and Amsterdam that remain focused on revitalization efforts that strengthen local communities.”
“Across upstate, Land Banks have been used to transform distressed properties. One vacant property can usher in additional blight and signal a neighborhood’s downturn. Land Banks help turn these blighted properties into neighborhood assets. The Albany County Land Bank alone has worked on more than 300 distressed properties, converting them into affordable housing, parks and gardens. These programs are critical for revitalizing communities and repurposing properties to be put back on the market or converted for other uses,” said Assemblymember Patricia A. Fahy.
Assemblymember Phil Steck said, “Land banks are a key tool in our continuing efforts to battle blight and create affordable housing. As a cosponsor of the legislation that enabled land banks in New York, I am thankful for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s support and financial commitments that have produced so much progress already in our communities.”
“The Attorney General’s Community Revitalization Initiative program has provided crucial support to our Land Bank in its effort to combat blight in communities throughout Albany County,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “Albany County has allocated $1.5 million over the last three years and this announcement of over $1 million today will help us continue to improve lives and neighborhoods. I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his continued support of the Albany County Land Bank through this new round of funding, which will ensure that the progress will continue.”
“The City of Albany works closely with the Albany County Land Bank to combat blight and revitalize our neighborhoods,” said City of Albany Mayor Kathy M. Sheehan. “During 2016, the Albany County Land Bank acquired 124 vacant properties, sold 32 vacant properties, and improved 85 vacant properties throughout the City. This additional funding from Attorney General Schneiderman will help further that progress and I am grateful for his leadership and support.”
“It’s exciting to see the Sotomayor family move into one of the first abandoned properties the Albany County Legislature transferred to the Albany County Land Bank back in 2014. The renewal of the Clinton Avenue home was realized through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity and the ongoing support of New York Attorney General State Eric Schneiderman. Albany County to date has contributed $1.75 million in county dollars to its Land Bank with the goal of renewing properties in all of its communities. We couldn’t have succeeded without the help of the attorney general,” said Albany County Legislature Majority Leader Frank Commisso.
“Land Banks have played an important role in the revitalization of our communities by transforming problem properties into community assets and helping to rebuild our neighborhoods one home at a time. Thank you to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his ongoing support of the Albany County Land Bank. Through the continued cooperation with the Land Bank Board members and staff and our valued community partners, we will continue to tell great stories such as that of the Sotomayor family that are here today celebrating ownership of a beautiful new home,” said Albany County Legislature Chairman Sean Ward.
City of Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said, “In partnership with the Capital Region Land Bank, Schenectady’s coordinated efforts have resulted in over 100 blighted buildings removed from our neighborhoods, created dozens of new owner occupied homes, and added many new affordable housing units. I thank Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his dedication to neighborhood revitalization and his continuing commitment to provide the financial resources that make these programs possible.”
“The Attorney General’s Community Revitalization Initiative is having a major impact on the City of Amsterdam. The first two rounds of funding enabled the City to demolish and rehabilitate blighted properties into community garden spaces and affordable housing units,” said Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa. “Amsterdam looks forward to this next round of funding to address the very serious problems of blight in the City’s East End. Several unsafe buildings, all in high visibility locations, will be demolished. This will address a serious public safety hazard, improve the appearance of the neighborhood and serve as a catalyst to redevelopment of the East End.”
“We applaud New York State Attorney General Schneiderman for directing additional funds to combat blight and vacant buildings throughout New York State,” said Christine Schudde, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity for the Capital District. “Habitat’s partnership with the Albany County Land Bank provides a model for strengthening neighborhoods and creating affordable homeownership opportunities for local residents. This model also demonstrates the power of collaboration in tackling our community’s most pressing issues and we look forward to continuing to work together with support from the Office of the Attorney General.”
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.
Building on the foundation laid by the legislation, Attorney General Schneiderman launched the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative to provide funding and allow land banks to fulfill their purpose. With this round of funding, the A.G.’s office will have dedicated a total of $57 million to fund New York land banks. In 2014, the Attorney General’s bill to expand the number of land banks from 10 to 20 became law.
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 land bank initiative is one component of the Attorney General’s comprehensive strategy for helping New York families and communities rebuild from the housing crisis. He has led the fight to hold the banks accountable for their recklessness and responsible for mitigating the damage they caused. He has obtained settlements that brought more than $95 billion to communities across the country.
More than $5.5 billion of that settlement money has come into New York State alone. With those funds, the Office of the Attorney General has also:
- Established the Homeowners Protection Program, HOPP, in 2012, which has funded nearly 90 agencies across the state and has provided legal services and counseling to help nearly 70,000 families stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure; nearly a third of them have mortgage modifications pending or approved.
- Created a web-based app,agscamhelp.com, a tool to help at-risk homeowners avoid mortgage foreclosure scams, including Deed Theft. More than 175,000 consumers have used the app since launch in 2014.
- Established the New York State Mortgage Assistance Program (MAP) in 2014. Since it began, MAP has provided $18 million in small loans to homeowners to clear other debts and qualify for mortgage modifications; it has prevented more than 650 foreclosures and preserved $153 million in property value for nearby homeowners. The Attorney General recently announced a $100 million expansion of MAP.
- Launched the Zombie and Vacant Property Remediation and Prevention Initiative, providing almost $13 million in grants to 76 villages, towns, and cities across the state to combat the blight of abandoned foreclosure properties.
- Launched “Neighbors for Neighborhoods” in August 2016, a $4 million pilot program that enables land banks to provide subsidies for local community members to take over individual, abandoned properties and convert them into long-term affordable rental units.