Buffalo, Niagara Falls get a ‘RISE’ in the war on zombie properties

Local News

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB)–New York Attorney General Letitia James brought big checks to Western New York Friday, amounting to $2.7 million for the cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Niagara Falls.

The money comes from a statewide program called Cities for Responsible Investment and Strategic Enforcement, or RISE.

Officials in the three Western New York cities plan to use those funds to crack down on “zombie property,” delinquent land owners, and provide help for distressed homeowners to maintain their property.

“We are going to address blight,” said James, “but most importantly, all of those ‘zombie homes’ that dot the landscape in Western New York.”

James chose Niagara Falls to announce the third phase of the RISE program, set up to fight urban blight, using funds derived from multi-billion-dollar settlements reached with several big national banks following the nation’s foreclosure crisis.

The Attorney General presented Niagara Falls a giant check for $882,625, the city’s share of the RISE funds, and Mayor Robert Restaino said the grant will go far to help financially-strapped homeowners.

“To provide some assistance to people who also want to improve their dwelling, but just don’t seem to have the economic ability to do it. With these resources we are going to be able to help them.”

In addition to providing financial assistance to help homeowners maintain their property, the money is earmarked for a call center to help code enforcement officers keep track of landlords and property owners who are failing to keep up their property.

State Assemblyman Angelo Morinello said the RISE program helps residents who want to do the right thing, “Once we get a handle on the homes and the blighted properties, and those properties that have to be taken in foreclosure, we can avoid having them go to the absentee slum landlords that are so prevalent in our city.”

James said RISE will also help the city’s Office of Code Enforcement bring in other city agencies to provide additional services for homeowners.

“A fund dedicated to assisting low- and moderate-income homeowners stuck in housing court primarily due to their financial status, and assist them obviously in addressing and remediating those violations.”

Of the $2.7 million coming to Western New York through Cities RISE. Rochester is getting $900,000 and Buffalo’s share is $954,000 to set up a system that separates homeowners needing help keeping up their property from delinquent landlords who don’t care.

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