Lander and Torres to introduce 'land bank' bill for affordable housing

In the Press

Lander and Torres to introduce 'land bank' bill for affordable housing

Gloria Pazmino
Capital NY

City Councilmen Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres are introducing legislation today to require the city to create a "land bank" to acquire vacant, abandoned, or foreclosed properties and turn them into affordable housing.

The measure comes on the heels of Mayor Bill de Blasio's introduction of an affordable housing plan that seeks to build or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units during his time in office.

"As the administration said, the housing plan involves all of the tools in our tool kit, and the land bank is a good and new tool," Lander told Capital.

After reaching a settlement with some of the nation's largest banks that contributed to the collapse of the housing market, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced this year he was dedicating roughly $20 million to communities to rebuild and restore neighborhoods hit by the housing crisis.

In 2011, the state legislature passed a bill establishing that "land banks" could acquire the vacant, abandoned, or foreclosed properties and choose to rebuild, demolish or redesign them for local community needs.

Lander and Torres are introducing the measure and see the creation of a New York City land bank as an opportunity to boost the affordable housing building effort.

"I represent neighborhoods like Van Nest, that are full of blighted lots, vacant lots, and abandoned properties," Torres told Capital. "When you have a high concentration of these abandoned properties, you have rodent infestation unsanitary conditions, more vandalism. A land bank is a tool for acquiring these vacant lots and transforming them into assets that would benefit the community. It could be affordable housing, it could be a community center and it's done in consultation with the community, the community is deciding the use of the land," he said.

Under the proposed legislation, the land bank established as the "New York City land corporation" and would operate as a type C not-for-profit corporation. Both the mayor and the speaker of the council would be members of the corporation, and be in charge of appointing a a board of directors made up of members from the New York city economic development corporation, the Department of Housing and Preservation and Development, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council land use and finance divisions.

After taking over land, the bank would give priority to developers who commit to producing affordable housing for low-income households that earn between $25,151 and $41,950 a year. The measure guarantees that households with incomes less than $25,151 a year are considered for the units.

"These are the households for whom most 'affordable housing' is unaffordable," Torres said referencing income requirements for affordable housing units that have been built in the last few years.

Currently, the city is able to take over some land, but only after a lengthy process called the third-party transfer, whereby the city steps in and transfers property to a third-party owner if the land's owner has not paid taxes for a long time.

"This bill directs the city to establish the land bank, lays out the purposes you can acquire the land for, I think there is reason to be optimistic that there is priority for the creation of a land bank," Lander said.

In a statement, de Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell said the administration was reviewing the bill.

The bill will be introduced at today's City Council stated meeting, which is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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