Land Banks called a long-term solution to vacant property problem (Buffalo Rising)

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Land Banks called a long-term solution to vacant property problem (Buffalo Rising)

Assemblymember Sam Hoyt and Senator David Valesky (D-Oneida) announce the passage of legislation (A373A/S663A) that would allow for the creation of land banks in New York State.  Land banks, entities that take control of problem properties and then redevelop or dispose of them in a manner consistent with the public’s interest, are a proven strategic tool for cities and counties where the number of vacant properties outpaces the private market’s ability to deal with them.  Buffalo Mayor Brown, no fan of Hoyt, has objected to the creation of a land bank in Buffalo fearing the City would not have oversight of such a program and would not receive money from the sale of property.

“The volume of available housing stock in Western New York has simply overwhelmed our ability to manage it,” Hoyt said. “It’s time to get a handle on the inventory that exists and start imagining ways to creatively reuse and redevelop that space. A network of land banks gives us the mechanism for doing exactly that.”

The bill allows cities and counties across the state the ability to develop land banks, which would be tasked with converting vacant, abandoned or tax-delinquent properties into productive use. These vacant properties could be redeveloped or resold in order to better balance the supply of buildings with the local demand for them. The land banks would operate under the New York State Urban Development Corporation. Both Buffalo and Syracuse suffer from an overgrowth of vacant and abandoned properties, a problem that is also beginning to creep into first-ring suburbs.

“The large number of abandoned and vacant properties is a major issue in upstate cities like Syracuse, adversely affecting property values and hindering economic growth,” said Valesky. “Land banks are a community-based solution which has shown great benefit in other states, fostering growth and improving the quality of life in our cities and neighborhoods.”

In crafting the legislation, Hoyt and Valesky carefully studied the success story of land banks in Flint, Michigan, an old manufacturing town where jobs have disappeared and vacancy abounds. The Genesee County Land Bank, which deals with Flint and its surrounding towns, was enacted in 1999 and has become the primary vehicle for redeveloping the area’s vacant housing. Hoyt worked with Dan Kildee, from the Center for Community Progress who was an instrumental part in creating Flint’s land banks.

“I’m enthusiastic about the great potential I see for land banks in New York,” Kildee said. “Around the country, as communities face the fallout of a changing economy and the foreclosure crisis, land banking is giving local governments the chance to help reset the real estate market and promote sound development plans for the future. I congratulate Assemblyman Hoyt, Senator Valesky and the people of New York for making this reform and I’m confident that they’ll begin to see positive changes in their communities as a result.”

“Just as one vacant building can set off a cycle of contagious blight, with declining property values leading to further abandonments, a smart redevelopment plan, implemented by a land bank that can acquire, hold and assemble parcels of land for development, green space, or public works projects can reverse this non-virtuous cycle. Their work adds value to surrounding properties and strengthens local real estate markets,” Hoyt said.

Peter Baynes, Executive Director of New York Conference of Mayors, said: “New York has long needed to address the reckless real estate speculation that is an unintended byproduct of the tax foreclosure process, frequently putting property in the hands of neglectful owners who have little interest in redeveloping or even maintaining the property they purchase. Land banks have proven to be an integral tool in not only halting this harmful practice, but actually reversing the decades-long trend of property neglect, vacancy and abandonment. NYCOM applauds Assemblyman Hoyt’s tireless efforts in shepherding this innovative legislation through the Assembly. Through his leadership, New York has taken a significant step toward combating the vacant and abandoned property crisis confronting many of our communities. If passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, this legislation will assist local officials in fostering responsible property development and ownership in their cities and villages.”

Mayor Paul Dyster of Niagara Falls said: “No problem confronting the City of Niagara Falls is as pressing, and potentially as intractable, as the large number of vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties that have resulted from decades of population loss. There are strong forces pushing to revitalize our inner cities, from block clubs to business organizations to faith-based initiatives. But what has been lacking up until now is a set of tools to help us cut through bureaucratic red tape and take practical steps to turn these problematic properties from liabilities into vibrant assets.”

Michael Clarke, Executive Director, Local Initiatives Support Corporation of Buffalo: “The past decades of population losses and increased property vacancy, while presenting enormous challenges for our city and county, also provide long-term opportunities for renewal if managed efficiently. Assemblymember Hoyt and Senator David Valesky’s land bank legislation provides an opportunity to put one of the tested and proven solutions to the reuse of distressed property to work in our community.”

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