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Syracuse Land Bank once again a top earner of NY attorney general’s office grants

Tom Magnarelli
Syracuse Land Bank Executive Director Katelyn Wright at the land bank's annual meeting in January.

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank is once again a top earner of grant funding from the office of the New York state attorney general. The funding is awarded from mortgage settlements the attorney general’s office made with big banks after the housing crisis.

Land banks acquire tax delinquent properties so they can be resold to responsible owners. The Syracuse Land Bank received $5 million in the first two rounds of attorney general funding, more than any other land bank in the state. It tied for the largest award in this third round of grants with $2 million. Land Bank Executive Director Katelyn Wright attributed that to the support from the city of Syracuse.

“They’re giving us a steady stream of properties and a steady stream of funding," Wright said. "The AG looks at this situation and sees that we have properties that are shovel-ready and we’re ready to accept these grant funds and get projects done very quickly. Our local governments, the city and the county have really stepped up and said we want to pursue this ambitious course of action, we want to go after the size of the problem. The city has foreclosed on about 1,300 abandoned properties so far and conveyed them to us.”

Most of the $2 million will be spent on nearly 60 demolitions. The land bank has a backlog of 230 properties to demolish.

"We’re shifting our focus to spend more of this public money on demolitions because we are able to attract private, local investors to spend their money on rehabs, and we're not able to attract them to spend their money on demolitions," Wright said.

Some funding will be spent on renovating homes that need more work than they’re worth.

"We need this subsidy in order to accomplish projects that we can't do with private investment," Wright said. "There could be a house where it might cost $150,000 to renovate it. We know as a finished project we can sell it for $75,000. These grant funds come in and fill that gap."

Also, the Oswego County Land Bank will receive $1 million in funding from the attorney general's office.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.