New York State Enacts Historic Land Bank Legislation (Press Release)

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Legislation to create long-term solution to problem of vacant properties is part of nationwide campaign for reform.

ALBANY, NY (JULY 29, 2011): New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed into law legislation allowing for the creation of land banks in New York State. The New York legislative victory is a result of a bi-partisan effort on the part of a number of Western New York lawmakers, including Senator John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse), Senator Bill Magnarelli (D-Syracuse, Geddes, Van Buren) and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell).

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. The New York legislation, sponsored by Senator David Valesky (D-Oneida) and former Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (D-Buffalo, Grand Island), 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.

This is of particular importance in Western New York, where the volume of abandoned housing stock is simply overwhelming. Center for Community Progress President Dan Kildee worked closely with the lawmakers who crafted the bills, which are modeled on the example of Flint, Michigan, an old manufacturing town where jobs have disappeared and vacancy abounds. The Genesee County Land Bank, which deals with properties in Flint and surrounding towns, has, since its creation in 1999, been the primary vehicle for redeveloping the city’s vacant housing. Kildee, the creator of that land bank, says he is confident that land banking can yield similar results for New York.

“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 re-set the real estate market and promote sound development plans for the future. I congratulate Governor Cuomo, Senator Valesky, Assemblyman Hoyt 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.”

Similar legislation is up for consideration in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, while Georgia legislators are debating an update of a land banking law already on the books there.

With foreclosures and business closings affecting cities long considered stable as well as those experiencing long term decline, the Center for Community Progress, the nation’s preeminent organization concerned with prevention and adaptive reuse of vacant buildings and land, has set a national agenda for urban land reform.  At the center of its plans is its annual Leadership Institute, which, earlier this year, brought together leaders from 14 cities in Georgia, Minnesota, New Jersey and Tennessee to plan for legislative initiatives in those states. Past Leadership Institute classes included representatives from Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, several of whom worked on developing and championing the New York legislation.

“As gratifying as it is to see change come to one community,” says Kildee, who championed renewal efforts in post-industrial Flint, “the Leadership Institute took our work to another level entirely. By launching our reform efforts at this kind of scale – fourteen cities in four different states – we address the problem in a way that will make a real difference. This is the best way to tackle the challenges facing so many US cities today.  We can’t afford to wait for things to happen in one city at a time.”