Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

NYS will use $20M in bank settlements to fund land banks

November 2, 2016

As published by Syracuse.com on November 2, 2016.

The state is making available $20 million to cities like Syracuse to continue operating land banks.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office will make the money available to the state’s 18 land banks. In a report, he said land banks have saved more than $19 million in home equity since 2013.

The money will come from the AG’s settlements with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. The settlements are a result of mortgage misconduct that led to the 2008 housing crisis.

Since 2011, the state legislature has passed laws allowing for as many as 20 land banks statewide. Land banks are charged with acquiring tax delinquent properties, which are either rehabilitated and resold or torn down. The goal is to prevent blight in neighborhoods and return properties to the tax rolls.

The state laws did not include funding for the programs. Schneiderman’s office has spent more than $30 million since 2013 to fund 10 land banks, not including today’s $20 million.

The new funding comes on the heels of a report from the Schneiderman’s office outlining land banks’ successes.

According to the report, Syracuse’s land bank has been the most active, acquiring more than 1,000 properties and reselling more than 400. That’s more than half of the 1,995 properties acquired by land banks statewide.

Syracuse has also received the most state money — nearly $5 million.

“The Syracuse Land Bank has made a demonstrable difference in the City of Syracuse,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. “Where neighborhoods once had blight, they now have hope. I appreciate the work of the staff of the Syracuse Land Bank and the commitment of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to supporting the quality of life in cities across New York.”

The new round of money will be administered by a pair of non-profits: Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Enterprise Community Partners. The state’s 18 land banks will submit requests for proposals to receive funding.

Applications are due Nov. 31.

The Syracuse land bank is currently in a holding pattern as it awaits Common Council approval for its $1.5 million budget. The Council has held that funding for several months but is expected to approve the money on Monday.

In the meantime, the Land Bank has stopped acquiring new properties.