City officials advance land bank proposal



City officials are asking the state for permission to form a land bank, an entity it'd use to help address vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties.

This morning, Mayor Tom Richards announced that the city has submitted a formal application to Empire State Development, the state's economic development agency. The application proposes creating the Rochester Land Bank, a nonprofit corporation operated by the city. A state law enacted in 2011 allows a limited number of local governments to set up land banks, pending state approval.

Land banks have more leeway than city government to acquire and transfer properties. Under the application, the Rochester Land Bank would take title to approximately 25 properties each year for the first two years of operation, says a press release. It would supply the homes to HOME Rochester, a Greater Rochester Housing Partnership program that rehabs vacant single-family homes and sells them to first-time buyers.

The release also says that a typical home demolition costs the city $25,000. A home can be rehabbed through the HOME Rochester program for less money, and doing so puts the property back on the tax rolls.

The city's press release says that HOME Rochester purchased 21 properties last year through the tax foreclosure process. The purchases cost the program $249,000. But by using a land bank, the properties could have been transferred to the program at no cost, which would have provided more funding for rehab work, the press release says.

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