Friday, 26 January 2018 13:53

OP ED: Diplomas to Homeownership Program Would Assist Land Banks

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For many New Yorkers, high student loan debt and the cost of living can make it difficult to achieve the dream of owning a home.

As a result, fewer people may be able to invest in homes in our local communities. Legislation I sponsor known as the New York State Diplomas to Homeownership Program would incentivize graduates of New York state colleges to purchase homes rehabilitated by local land banks.

The NYS Diplomas to Homeownership Program legislation is modeled after programs that have worked in other states such as Rhode Island and Maryland. It is designed to help college graduates achieve the goal of buying a house and at the same time help strengthen and revitalize neighborhoods. Essentially, the legislation would provide college graduates who purchase a house rehabilitated by local land banks with up to $15,000 to be applied to their student loan debt. The award would be equal to 10% of the purchase price of the home. In order to qualify, buyers need to be graduates of New York state high schools and New York state colleges and would also be required to remain in the home for at least five years.

Land banks are relatively new to Upstate New York. In 2011, New York state law authorized the creation of up to 25 land banks throughout the state. They are public entities and each share the common goal to acquire and repurpose vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed properties. Their mission is to specifically target these types of properties in order to assist in rehabilitating neighborhoods and communities. There are now 23 land banks in New York state all aiming to eliminate blight, return abandoned properties to productive use, and ultimately get them back on the tax rolls. In just a short time, the land banks have been successful and have collectively improved more than 2,000 properties and incentivized an estimated $75 million in private investment. Further, they have razed almost 500 blighted structures, sold more than 650 properties and as a result, have added almost $30 million in assessed value to the tax rolls. This is all helping to revitalize neighborhoods.

In addition to assisting recent grads, the NYS Diplomas to Homeownership program would help land banks secure buyers for the rehabilitated properties and create a new demand for the housing. This demand has the potential to reduce the amount of time the properties spend on the market and, thus, presumably reduce costs land banks spend on marketing properties. This would enable land banks to realize a return on their investments sooner rather than later which would encourage them to rehabilitate additional properties and essentially make the land banks more sustainable.

In addition, NYS Diplomas to Homeownership has the potential to maximize state investment by creating a link between young professionals who have invested in their education directly with local revitalization efforts. This program would work to encourage talented, young people to be a part of Upstate revitalization and to stay in New York state. I look forward to advocating for this legislation this session. I will also advocate for funding for land banks in the 2018-19 budget. If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185. You may also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.

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