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Erie County land bank debuts

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was scheduled to offer a preview of activities that will be undertaken by the county’s land bank and introduce its new executive director.

Poloncarz has appointed Jocelyn Gordon as the first-ever executive director of the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp. during a news conference that also was attended by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins.

Schneiderman was scheduled to announce that his office’s Homeowner Protection Program had already served about 24,000 homeowners statewide, since its inception in October 2012. The program has resulted in 6,660 approved and pending loan modifications for homeowners who were about to lose their homes, including 1,519 homeowners in Erie and Niagara counties.

“After just over a year, our Homeowner Protection Program is getting real results and helping New Yorkers in danger of losing their homes,” Schneiderman said, in a statement.

“With a renewed commitment to providing resources for homeowners and communities across our state, we can combat the devastating impact of the housing crisis,” he added.

In October 2012, the state Attorney General’s Office initiated a three-year commitment of $60 million to fund housing couseling and legal services for struggling homeowners. They include direct advocacy with lenders and assistance in preparing the complex documentation that homeowners need to submit in applying for loan modifications to lower their monthly mortgage payments and prevent foreclosures on their homes.

Along with the county’s land bank, the state’s efforts are intended to reduce the number of blighted properties that have affected local communities across Erie County in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis.

Last fall, Erie County’s land-banking entity was awarded $2 million in funds by the state Attorney General’s Office, a twentyfold addition to the coffers of the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp. The nonprofit entity is 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.