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
(NEWBURGH, NY) Attorney General Eric Schneiderman joined with elected officials and staff from the Newburgh Community Land Bank (NCLB) to announce a new, competitive round of funding for New York State land banks that are working to rebuild and restore neighborhoods hit hard by the housing crisis. The event also highlighted the release of the Lander Street Community Revitalization plan, an ambitious redevelopment effort that the NCLB is undertaking to rehabilitate a highly distressed row of vacant and abandoned homes along Lander Street in the City of Newburgh.
The Attorney General’s Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative is making a new allocation of up to $20 million to eligible land banks in addition to the $13 million allocated through a competitive application process last year, bringing the total to $33 million. 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.
“Land banks are a critical tool for helping communities plagued by vacant and abandoned properties recover from the housing crisis,” 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.”
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. 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 the Governor.
The Newburgh Community Land Bank received $2.4 million in the last funding round and has used those funds to acquire a number of highly distressed parcels along Lander Street. The redevelopment will have a mix of uses, including green space, affordable rental and single-family housing, and the land bank is utilizing innovative technologies that will advance sustainable and green building options for residential development.
“When I travel to our office on Grand Street in Newburgh, I see too many abandoned properties, but I also see hope for our community,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. “The Newburgh Community Land Bank is revitalizing our neighborhoods, building by building, in order to increase property values, reduce tax burdens and boost the local economy. I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for his investment in communities like Newburgh.”
Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy said, “Newburgh is proud to partner with AG Schneiderman to create a stronger, healthier community. Through the NCLB, the City of Newburgh is demonstrating a successful partnership between municipalities and non-profits and the possibility of what can be developed if we work collaboratively towards a common goal.”
“One of the biggest challenges that faces Newburgh are its abandoned homes and buildings,” said Assemblyman Frank Skartados. “Here in Newburgh, the creative solution is the land bank, which fosters new and active ownership. The impact is a reduction of crime, a renewed economy and a sense of pride in the neighborhood. Today, that goal will be made more attainable by the efforts and additional funds provided by Attorney General Schneiderman.”
Currently, there are nine land banks in New York State that will be eligible to compete in the next round of funding, including those that received funding in the first round. The nine land banks are located in:
Abandoned and vacant properties depress property values, discourage property ownership, and attract criminal activity, but a land bank provides 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.
“This funding is a step in the right direction for the City of Newburgh. The land bank is an innovative approach to helping cities such as Newburgh deal with the overwhelming blight and urban decay that accompany large numbers of abandoned houses. This funding will allow the city to begin the revitalization process and bring Newburgh back to the glory of its past,” Sen. Bill Larkin said.
Madeline Fletcher, Executive Director of the Newburgh Community Land Bank, said, “The funding from the Office of the Attorney General is critical to our collaborative effort to revitalize Newburgh. In just a few years, it will enable us to renovate and preserve more than 60 units of housing for existing and new city residents, expand meaningful job opportunities, and enhance commercial and community development in a key five-block neighborhood in the Newburgh East End Historic District.”
By transferring vacant and abandoned properties to responsible 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.