Wed October 30, 2013
Area land bank boosted by cash infusion
In 2011, the state approved land bank legislation to help communities deal with vacant and abandoned properties after the housing crisis, but until recently the effort lacked the needed funding.
A year after it was created, the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation has the money it needs to become fully operational.
In Buffalo Tuesday, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman awarded the land bank with $2 million from last year's mortgage settlement with the nation's largest banks.
"I want to emphasize a lot of places in the state did not even set up land banks, much less come up with proposals that would enable us to award them funds," Schneiderman said.
"But here in Erie County, here in Buffalo, your local officials have done the job."
Schneiderman says the funding will be used to hire full time staff and demolish blighted properties. In Erie County alone there are tens of thousands of tax delinquent properties, according to land bank chairperson Maria Whyte.
"When you plot all of those on a map, you're looking at no single town or village that is unaffected by the issue of vacant and distressed properties. A lot of rural village centers, Springville, Angola for example, are really struggling with this," Whyte said
"It's not just a city of Buffalo problem. And it's important for people to realize, it really is affecting all of Western New York."
Along with demolishing rundown properties, the land bank will create a program to transfer vacant lots to neighboring homeowners and a housing rehabilitation and resale program to generate revenue for future operations.