Erie County land bank awarded $2 million by state, increasing coffers 20-fold - The Buffalo News

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Erie County land bank awarded $2 million by state, increasing coffers 20-fold

Erie County’s land-banking entity has been awarded $2 million in funds by the State Attorney General’s Office.

That is a twentyfold addition to the current coffers of the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp., a nonprofit entity tasked with land banking foreclosed and abandoned properties across the county as a means of steering them from blight and getting them back on tax rolls.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman was set to announce the award today. It is part of more than $12.4 million in grant funding that has been set aside for land banks in Erie and Chautauqua counties, as well as in Suffolk County, Rochester, Syracuse and Newburgh.

“In the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis, communities across our state have been burdened by vacant and abandoned properties that attract crime and drag down property values,” said Schneiderman. “By funding land banks across New York, we are helping empower local communities to rebuild their own neighborhoods, house by house, block by block.”

The move, Schneiderman said, is aimed at helping local communities recover from the housing crisis. The grants represent the first round of competitive funding awards under the Attorney General’s Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative, a two-year, $20 million program supported by funds from last year’s $25 billion settlement with some of the nation’s top banks following the 2008 foreclosure crisis.

“With these resources, we will be able to move the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp. beyond its 2013 pilot project and dramatically scale up operations,” said Commissioner of Environment and Planning Maria R. Whyte.

Whyte, who also serves as chairwoman of the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Bank Corp., said the land bank received a $100,000 appropriation from the county in the 2013 budget, but the additional funds from the state will allow the group to hire staff and pay for the demolition of blighted properties. In addition, Whyte said, the funding will be used to acquire and rehabilitate derelict properties, as well as establish a revolving fund for future land bank operations.

“In short, these funds will get our local land bank off the ground and help us change the landscape of many Western New York neighborhoods,” Whyte added.

The Chautauqua County Landbank Corp. will receive $1.5 million through the program. Mark Geise, its executive director, said the state funds are critical to the land bank’s mission to reverse the decline of Chautauqua County’s housing sector by rehabilitating and razing dilapidated properties.

The Rochester Land Bank Corp. will receive $2.78 million, while $3 million was awarded to the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corp. The Newburgh Community Land Bank will receive $2.45 million and the Suffolk County Land Bank Corp., $675,000.

They are among 10 land banks designated across the state under legislation that was signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2011. Last month, Cuomo signed new legislation that removed legal barriers to county-run land banks seeking control of foreclosed, vacant properties and getting them back on the tax rolls.


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