BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - The foreclosure crisis left empty houses all over western New York but more help is on the way to turn the lights back on.
An abandoned or dilapidated house can bring down an entire neighborhood. Buffalo and Erie County have now jointly formed a "land bank" to bring new life back to neighborhoods on the brink.
NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, "They bring down property values, they affect crime rates, they can become havens for criminal activity. They are a blight on the community, they undermine the tax base, making it harder for local communities to fund services."
The "land bank" will be used to take control of vacant run down properties, and improve them, or demolish them so they can be re-sold. Schneiderman is depositing $2 million dollars into the "land bank" to get things going.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, "This is not located in one spot. Distressed properties, distressed housing happens all across the community."
Of the $2 million for Erie County, Buffalo gets about half, which Mayor Byron Brown plans for demolishing dilapidated properties in neighborhoods that still have signs of life.
"Where people have been living for, in some cases, 30 years, 40 years, and 50 years, where those properties are a significant blight in otherwise nice neighborhoods," Brown said.
One of the first properties county officials are targeting for the "land bank" is an abandoned house on Fowler Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda that homeowners even Called 4 Action to save the neighborhood.
Land bank officials have now taken control of the house. After a brief inspection of the interior, they found out they have a lot of work ahead of them. Chief Maria Whyte says they will have to start from the foundation up.
"The foundation is beginning to buckle, so that will be something we will really have to stabilize, and of course - depending on the expenses of those things - that will help us establish whether or not we can rehab and re-sell the property, versus demolishing it," Whyte said.
The money for NYS's land banks comes from a national settlement with banks over their abusive foreclosure practices. Schneiderman says there will be additional deposits into Erie County's land bank for other suburbs such as Cheektowaga and West Seneca that are also fighting blight.
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