How to Fund Land Banks

This month, Shelterforce published an article by Tarik Abdelazim (of Center for Community Progress) that tackles how to successfully fund land banks. Read the full article here for a look into lessons learned over the last 10 years as land banks continue to mature.

Stabilizing and revitalizing disinvested neighborhoods is not an overnight endeavor. Land banks require planning, patience, and partnerships—and dedicated, recurring funding affords land banks the opportunity to carry out meaningful community engagement, pursue long-term strategies, and pilot innovative partnerships.
— Tarik Abdelazim

A.G. Underwood Awards Nearly $26 Million to New York Land Banks

Earlier this month, the NYS Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced almost $26 Million had been awarded to land banks across New York. This funding will allow NYS land banks to continue their work returning vacant and abandoned properties to productive use.

“Land banks are a pivotal part of revitalizing and rebuilding neighborhoods across the state,” said Attorney General Underwood. “Thanks to funding secured by my office’s settlements with the big banks, we’ve been able to invest in cities and towns across New York still recovering from the foreclosure crisis.”

Read the full press release here.

Demolitions Across the State

Land banks across New York are responsibly returning vacant and abandoned properties to productive use and eliminating harm from our communities. One way land banks improve our communities is through the demolition of blighted, structurally unsafe buildings. While demolitions sometimes get a bad rap, removing a blighted building can lead to safer neighborhoods and more opportunities for land reuse.

The Broome County Land Bank Corporation began the demolition of three nuisance properties in August. One building demolished had been severely damaged in a fire and had seen more police activity due to illegal trespassing and squatting. The other two buildings had been vacant since severe flooding in Broome County in 2011. Click here to read more about the Broome County Land Bank's demolitions.

The Cattaraugus County Land Bank Corporation has several demolitions planned for this year and the upcoming year. In addition to 11 planned rehabilitation, Cattaraugus County Land Bank plans to demolish seven properties this year and an additional 12 buildings next year. reducing blight in the community. For more information on improvements being done by the Cattaraugus County Land Bank Corporation, click here.

Building equitable communities: It takes systems reform, collaboration, and community wealth-building

Last month, the Center for Community Progress highlighted community revitalization work happening across the country. CCP and JPMorgan Chase hosted a learning exchange between local governments, land banks, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), and nonprofits to discuss strategies that can tackle vacancy and abandonment in an equitable way. 

As a recipient of CCP's national Technical Assistance Scholarship Program, the Albany County Land Bank were among attendees at the May 2018 learning exchange. ACLB shared information on its Equitable Ownership Program designed to provide more affordable homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers in Albany County's most economically distressed neighborhoods

To see what other community development groups are working on throughout the U.S., read CCP's full blog post.

Reactivating Abandoned Buildings through Local Ownership in Smaller Cities

Several NYS land banks are rehabbing vacant and abandoned properties through the Neighbors for Neighborhoods program. The goal of the program is "to develop some affordable rental housing in struggling neighborhoods and build local wealth at the same time." Through Neighbors for Neighborhoods, land banks across the state are making investments to provide high quality, affordable rental units. Under the terms of sale, units must be affordable for 20 years and will be sold to those that do not own more than two rental properties. 

Next City wrote a great article about the transformative work NYS land banks are doing to rehab and occupy these units!

National nonprofit visits Ogdensburg to help with Land Bank initiative

Earlier this month, Center for Community Progress (CCP), a national nonprofit, hosted a workshop with Ogdensburg city planning officials. Ultimately, recommendations regarding best practices in land banking and dealing with zombie properties will be made to the city and the Land Bank for consideration.

Once funding and the certificate of incorporation is secured, the Ogdensburg Land Bank Corporation will be able to acquire tax-foreclosed properties throughout Ogdensburg.

To learn more about CCP's involvement with the Ogdensburg Land Bank Corporation, check out this Watertown Daily Times article.

In Our Opinion: Land bank offers real option for vacant properties

In an opinion piece featured on The Daily Star (Oneonta), land banks were highlighted as a tool that can be used to address vacant problem properties. Officials from the City of Oneonta have been exploring the possibility of partnering with the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank. 

"It’s important to secure vacant buildings to keep them from being used for nefarious purposes or become havens for feral cats and wildlife, but we’d like to see a process to more quickly move those properties from vacant status to one of responsible human habitation."

Land banks are effective entities designed to responsibly dispose of vacant and abandoned properties. 

Albany land bank program offers mentoring for first-time home buyers

The Albany County Land Bank recently introduced a new pilot program designed to create more first-time homeowners in neighborhoods that have a more robust rental population. The Equitable Ownership Pilot Program will pair buyers with a rehab mentor and other resources to help them through the process of renovating their first home.

“This is our attempt to use our abilities, powers and resources to give a boost to people and increase home ownership in our focus neighborhoods,” Executive Director Adam Zaranko said.

For a closer look at the program details, visit the Land Bank's website. Read the Albany Times Union article featuring the program here.

Land bank moves to salvage abandoned properties

The Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank (GMVLB) will be collaborating with the village of Cherry Valley in Otsego County to help address vacant and blighted properties. In addition to passing the Resolution of Engagement, the Cherry Valley Village Board passed the Land Bank's 5/50 Resolution which states that "50 percent of the real property taxes on properties within the Village of Cherry Valley purchased from the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank be remitted to the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank for a period of five years." This remittance is then reinvested into other blighted properties in the Land Bank's operating footprint. 

Executive Director of GMVLB Tolga Morawksi said "Cherry Valley is a beautiful place, and by collaborating with the municipal government and community volunteers, we can begin to address blighted properties there." 

For the full story, click here.


Wayne County Land Bank gets hands on first properties

After receiving its certificate of incorporation from the state, the Wayne County Regional Land Bank Corporation has acquired its first three properties. The Land Bank will now evaluate each property based on condition to determine the best course of action. 

"The ultimate goal is to improve communities by reducing the number of properties that may be deemed unsightly and/or unsafe and which could be negatively affecting neighborhoods — and dragging down property values in the process."

To read more, read the article featured in the FInger Lakes Times.

Can 'land banks' help rebuild post-industrial U.S. cities?

Land banks are becoming more and more recognized as an effective tool to use in the fight against vacant and abandoned properties. New York's strong network of land banks continue to serve as a national model of bringing vacant properties back into productive use.

Buffalo Erie Niagra Land Improvement Coporation (BENLIC) "aims to take on the parcels of land it feels will have the biggest impact in a neighbourhood." Jocelyn Gordon, Executive Director of BENLIC, said "if there's a demolition on a lot in a marketable neighborhood, and we can strengthen that block, that's the most fulfilling part."

Visit the Thomson Reuters Foundation website to read more about BENLIC's approach to land banking and for a snapshot of land banks across the country.

Nearly 40 more vacant, run-down buildings will be demolished in Schenectady

The Capital Region Land Bank in Schenectady is partnering with Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority and The Community Builders to demolish 39 vacant and blighted buildings. 

“Vacant, blighted zombie properties are not welcome in Schenectady County," Richard Ruzzo,hairman of the Land Bank and Schenectady County legislator, said in a prepared statement. "They hurt the individuals and families who want to invest in our neighborhoods and create hazards for our first responders. We want safe, livable housing in our community."

Great to see this joint effort to eliminate blight in NYS. Check out the Albany Business Review article for more information.

Land Bank on the hunt for Utica's zombie properties

The Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank has acquired a zombie property in Utica in attempts to bring vacant and abandoned properties back into productive use. 

"Since joining the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank, we now have a new tool in our toolbox to combat this epidemic and bring pride and safety back to our neighborhoods,” said Utica Common Councilman Joseph Marino, the land bank’s treasurer, saying the organization purchased the property to do “what’s right by the neighbors and not by the bottom line.”

GMVLB's Executive Director Tolga Morawski said “the goal is to have every property we take on completed and back on the market within a year. Whether that’s as a side lot or a rehabbed home, either way, we don’t want to be sitting on a big inventory of properties. We want to keep them moving.”

Read more about GMVLB's focus on zombie properties here.

Albany County Land Bank’s Spend a Little, Get a LOT! Returns

The Albany County Land Bank is accepting applications from June 1-30 for lots selected for their Spend a Little, Get a LOT! program. The program has been expanded this year to include not just homeowners on the same block as the participating lot but established renters as well. For more information on the program and a list of available lots, visit the Land Bank's website.

“The Land Bank’s discounted lot initiative allowed me to purchase a lot that sat vacant for years across the street from my home. I can see this little plot of land outside my front windows, and every day I would imagine the possibilities,” said Alisa Sikelianos-Carter, a City of Albany resident who purchased a lot in the South End Neighborhood through the program last year. “I am thankful for the financial accessibility of this program which empowered me to purchase a piece of property that is blooming with potential!”

Additional press coverage:


Sullivan County Land Bank Targets Blight in Liberty and Monticello

Sullivan County Land Bank recently acquired 13 tax-foreclosed + abandoned properties in Liberty and Monticello. The Land Bank will be renovating four of the properties, while the remaining nine will be demolished due to poor conditions. The hope is that these property interventions will spur revitalization in Sullivan County.

Check out WAMC Northeast Public Radio's article "Sullivan County Land Bank Kicks of Demolitions" and Spectrum News Hudson Valley's article "Sullivan County Land Bank Focuses on Monticello and Liberty" for more coverage on the Land Bank's initiative.

Ogdensburg Land Bank Corporation Approved by ESD

On Tuesday, May 29, 2018 Empire State Development approved the Ogdensburg Land Bank Corporation, making it the 25th land bank formed in NYS. The Ogdensburg Land Bank Corporation will join in the effort to address blight and vacancy across the state.

“The designation for Ogdensburg is an absolutely critical component in this city’s ability to turn things around. I think we will see visually, the difference that the land bank has made, within three years.” City Manager Sarah Purdy

To read more about the newly formed land bank, visit the Watertown Daily Times and North Country Now.

Land Bank continues to chip away at ‘zombie’ properties in Seneca County

The Finger Lakes Regional Land Bank is making strides in their efforts to reduce blight and vacancy in Seneca County.

Joe McGrath, CEO of the Finger Lakes Regional Land Bank,  stated “With the support of the County, the Land Bank has been able to leverage the institutional knowledge of the real property tax office and the county codes department to begin to seriously confront systemic vacancy and abandonment in Seneca County."

To read the full article on, click here.

Land Banks and the Vacant Property Problem

NYLBA President Adam Zaranko sat down for an interview with Impact Lenders Podcast to discuss ways NYS Land Banks are addressing vacant and abandoned properties all across the state. Listen to the episode for more info on the creative solutions NYS Land Banks are using to combat vacancy and the importance of funding this work.

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Listen to the episode below or visit the Impact Lenders Podcast website.