Schneiderman awards $20M to land banks to combat blight

Efforts to combat vacant and blighted properties around New York state are getting a $20 million boost, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday.

The money will be committed to community land banks, which are used by cities and towns around the state to acquire and rehabilitate — or demolish — vacant buildings. Many communities around the state are dealing with a rash of such properties, which can destabilize entire neighborhoods by falling into disrepair and driving down property values.

The $20 million comes from recent state legal settlements with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs over banking practices that contributed to the housing and foreclosure crisis.

"New York's land banks have successfully empowered communities across the state to rebuild and revitalize neighborhoods hit hard by the foreclosure crisis," Schneiderman said in a statement announcing the funding.

Following the 2008 economic downturn many communities saw a sharp increase in the number of abandoned properties as residents moved out of homes in foreclosure.

Led by local residents and officials, the land banks buy the property and either fix up the homes or demolish them. In many cases the properties are put back on the market. Schneiderman's office has committed $33 million to local land banks in the past three years.

The first 10 land banks have reclaimed nearly 2,000 properties around the state since 2013, according to Schneiderman's office. Of those, 701 were put on the market. Another 409 were demolished.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner joined several other city and county leaders from around the state in hailing the new investment in land banks.

"Where neighborhoods once had blight, they now have hope," she said.