Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a $10 million three-year initiative to create homeownership opportunities, make needed home repairs to prevent foreclosure, and fund a targeted zombie property prevention strategy for the East Side and the Town of Cheektowaga. This first phase of funding for the three-pronged Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative invests more than $4 million to begin work on nearly 250 homes this year.
“The Buffalo Billion helped this region completely reverse course and become a magnet for economic excitement and activity, but the transformation of Buffalo and Western New York is not complete unless it reaches everyone in the community, including the East Side,” Governor Cuomo said. “This initiative will restore hope and opportunity to historically underserved communities, make the dream of home ownership a reality for deserving New Yorkers, and continue the remarkable transformation of Western New York.”
East Side and Cheektowaga neighborhoods are, with a few exceptions, comprised of older housing built prior to 1978. Many homes in these areas are at disproportionate risk to contain lead paint hazards, water intrusion, injury and safety issues, heating, plumbing, and electrical deficiencies. Unemployment rates are typically higher on the East Side, where several neighborhoods have an unemployment rate that has exceeded 21 percent. In some neighborhoods on the East Side, more than two-thirds of the population are “rent burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
$1.4 Million to Create 28 New Homeownership Opportunities
The state will partner with the City of Buffalo and invest $1.4 million to repair and make available for purchase to new homeowners 28 city-owned vacant and abandoned properties on the East Side. This component of the initiative will provide a stabilizing force by targeting vacant properties on blocks where most of the other homes are occupied–early intervention to stop the spread of blight by building on a neighborhood’s strengths. The first homes are expected to be move-in ready in 2017. As the homes are purchased, proceeds will be re-invested in additional homes. The City acquired these properties from the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation (the local land bank) — enabled by the Land Bank legislation Governor Cuomo signed into law.
$2 Million to Preserve Housing, Prevent Foreclosure, and Protect East Side Families
$2 million will be invested to directly assist families at elevated risk of losing their homes due to high costs of maintenance and energy usage. Based on a successful initiative funded by Attorney General Cuomo with Bank Settlement funds, the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, this program will assist approximately 200 families at elevated risk of losing their homes due to high costs of maintenance and energy usage. The Community Foundation of Buffalo, along with other local partner organizations, will create healthy, sustainable living environments for families by helping homeowners access weatherization, repair, and home health programs (including lead remediation) from multiple organizations through a single process.
The additional GHHI partners include: Belmont Housing Resources, the Center for Employment Opportunities, the Concerned Clergy Coalition of WNY, the Erie County Department of Health, FLARE Center, Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Lt. Colonel Matt Urban Center, New Buffalo Impact, PUSH Buffalo, the Town of Cheektowaga, the University District Community Development Association, and the Western New York Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning.
$1.02 Million to Prevent Zombie Properties
The third component of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program is an anti-foreclosure measure that will keep owners in their homes and stabilize neighborhoods. The initiative will invest over $1 million to address and prevent zombie properties. Under the program, the State of New York Mortgage Agency will purchase the mortgages for 17 properties facing foreclosure on Buffalo’s East Side and in the Town of Cheektowaga. This component of the initiative will include one-on-one counseling with each mortgage holder and direct outreach with lenders to modify loans. Each modification could include reducing the amount owed by the homeowner and/or making necessary home repairs to address deferred maintenance. In cases where the homeowner cannot financially support a reduced mortgage or no longer wants to own a home, HCR and its nonprofit partners can offer resources and support to help the owner get a fresh start, while ensuring that the property is not abandoned, and is quickly repaired and resold affordably to a new qualified buyer.
“The Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization initiative targets the unique challenges that individual communities face in creating long-term neighborhood stability and greater opportunities for families,” New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said.“ Nearly 250 families will realize the dream of homeownership this year, while vacant and at-risk properties will get a new lease on life. This is a concrete example of Governor Cuomo’s commitment to drilling down on the needs of neighborhoods, attacking the problems on multiple fronts, and gathering the forces and resources to make a real difference in people’s lives. HCR is thrilled to be part of this program and we look forward to seeing the continued renaissance of Buffalo and Western New York.”
Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes said, “Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Homestead Initiative is designed to diminish foreclosures and zombie properties. Used in conjunction with first-time homebuyer programs and other neighborhood stabilization strategies, opportunities exist to strengthen communities in need. We’ve heard your concerns, attention is being paid to Buffalo’s East Side. This initiative is just one of many forthcoming to show that the best is yet to come for Buffalo’s East Side.”