Three-Pronged Initiative will Increase Homeownership, Prevent Foreclosure, Target Zombie Properties on Buffalo's East Side and Town of Cheektowaga
Phase One will Invest more than $4 Million to Create Homeownership Opportunities and Prevent Foreclosure for Nearly 250 Families
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 Buffalo's 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 incl ude 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.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, "Neighborhoods are the building blocks of a vibrant and successful city, and with today's announcement, Governor Cuomo continues his historic commitment to an economic renaissance that lifts every individual and touches every segment of our community. By helping hard-working families on the East Side achieve and hold on to the dream of home ownership, we strengthen Buffalo and the entire Western New York region."
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "The Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization initiative targets the unique challenges that individual communities face in creating long-term neighborhood stability and greater opportunities for families. 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 th e 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."
Senator Tim Kennedy said, "This ground-breaking initiative will provide hardworking New Yorkers the opportunity to own the home of their dreams. By investing in the future of this region, the Governor has shown an unwavering commitment to the people of Buffalo and to future generations of Buffalonians. This program will deter foreclosures and help the residents of Cheektowaga and Buffalo's East Side live a quality, happy life for years to come."
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 th at the best is yet to come for Buffalo's East Side."
Assemblymember Monica P. Wallace said, "Zombie homes have posed a real problem to every community here in Western New York. At last count, there were over 400 zombie homes just in Cheektowaga, causing neighboring home values to depreciate and creating hazardous conditions for children. This initiative will turn zombie properties into beautiful homes, help families establish roots in Western New York, and support a welcoming and bright community for men, women and children. The hard-working residents of Western New York deserve homeownership, and under this landmark program and the Buffalo Billion, the Governor and New York State are helping t hem do just that."
Mayor Byron W. Brown said, "I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and support, and for this unprecedented investment in an initiative which will ensure new homeownership opportunities and provide affordable, safe and quality homes for working families on the East Side of Buffalo. This initiative will continue to strengthen our communities and rejuvenate our economy."
Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski said, "This transformative initiative from Governor Cuomo will increase homeownership, prevent foreclosure, and target zombie properties on Buffalo's East Side and right here in the town of Cheektowaga. This three-pronged initiative will allow New Yorkers to achieve their long-sought dreams of becoming homeowners and will help transform Western New York's economy and provide much ne eded support to our community. I applaud Governor Cuomo's efforts to revitalize Western New York communities and modernize housing structures across the state."
Reverend Darius Pridgen said, "Thanks to Governor Cuomo's unparalleled commitment to Western New York, we have turned Buffalo into a national urban model for revitalization. Governor Cuomo knows that with community engagement, investment and vision, we can bring real change to our communities. By turning around Buffalo's East Side, we will continue to attract businesses, innovators, and fresh, young minds to this area to help us foster further job growth and boost our regional economy."