Amsterdam, Land Bank partner with hopes to rehab 10 blighted homes

Through a cooperative agreement, the city of Amsterdam and the Capital Region Land Bank have applied to the state’s Homes and Community Renewal Legacy City Access Program with the hopes of receiving funding to renovate a total of 10 dilapidated city residences, including this one located at 195 Guy Park Ave.

Through a cooperative agreement, the city of Amsterdam and the Capital Region Land Bank have applied to the state’s Homes and Community Renewal Legacy City Access Program with the hopes of receiving funding to renovate a total of 10 dilapidated city residences, including this one located at 195 Guy Park Ave.

AMSTERDAM — The city has selected additional blighted properties for inclusion in a state grant application that could lead to the rehabilitation of 10 dilapidated vacant properties next year.

The city entered a cooperation agreement with the Capital Region Land Bank in September to submit an application to the state Homes and Community Renewal Legacy City Access Program seeking funding to renovate blighted residential properties.

The Common Council approved a resolution last week adding five city-owned properties to the list of deteriorating buildings the proposed project would seek to fully restore. The additional properties include 394-396 Locust Ave., 26 Rockton St., 195 Guy Park Ave., 10 Brandt Place and 22 Wilson Ave.

The city in the fall had originally identified eight properties for possible inclusion in the program, but Mayor Michael Cinquanti said three buildings were rejected by the contractor the Land Bank has identified to carry out the project if the grant application is successful.

A total of 10 city-owned properties previously obtained through tax foreclosure will ultimately be included in the program application. The other buildings are located at 53 Arnold Ave., 136 Glen Ave., 38 Glen Ave., 273-275 Division St. and 91 Fairview Place.

The city could benefit from lower than anticipated participation in the state program, according to Cinquanti, who said the encouragement of HCR for communities to submit more candidate homes contributed to the decision by Amsterdam to add properties to its proposal. The program targets projects consisting of five to 10 vacant homes of up to three-units.

“The neighborhoods surrounding each of these properties will get a very welcome enhancement as these home renovations are completed,” Cinquanti said.

Richard Ruzzo, Land Bank chairman and Schenectady County District 1 legislator, said the A.I.K. Property Group has already had a chance to visit the selected properties and is prepared to take on the project with the goal of rehabbing the homes to become safe and affordable housing to create new opportunities for local families they might not otherwise have access to.

The Legacy City Access Program is geared towards addressing blighted residential properties in upstate communities that drive down market conditions while straining limited municipal resources as the cost to renovate the languishing homes exceeds their post-project value.

The state provides up to $75,000 per property to supplement construction loans used to fully renovate the structures with a development partner for subsequent sale to underserved families, especially first-time homebuyers of color.

After the properties have been sold, the state funding is converted into a second mortgage by HCR structured as a declining balance that will be forgiven if the new homeowner complies with the terms of a 10-year regulatory agreement to ensure the affordability of the home.

The Land Bank will submit the state funding application and oversee the project if approved. The city has agreed to transfer ownership of the identified homes to the Land Bank if the proposal is greenlit by the state.

There would be no cost to the city related to the renovations. Although Cinquanti acknowledged the city would potentially miss out on property sale revenues, he noted there was a lack of interest when the foreclosure properties were previously marketed.

“We have previously attempted to sell five of these properties at auction and/or via the property disposition process and were not successful, so the sales amounts we won’t get may not have been very significant in any event,” Cinquanti said.

Any potential loss, Cinquanti said, would be far outweighed by the benefits to the city of the “rundown, abandoned eyesores” being brought up to code and transformed into well-maintained owner-occupied homes that would be placed back on the tax rolls.

The Land Bank has previously completed similar small-scale renovation projects that have big effects on the community-at-large in Schenectady, Ruzzo said.

“It all ties into the bigger picture of neighborhood revitalization,” Ruzzo said. “The Land Bank’s mission is to remove blight and restore neighborhoods. We take down the worst of the worst and give an on-ramp to homeownership to local families.”

The city strategically selected 10 deteriorating buildings that could be revamped with the available funding while having the largest impact on the surrounding neighborhood. The single and multi-family homes consist of 17 total housing units.

“We’re replacing a piece of blight that has hurt neighboring property values with a fully renovated one or two family home that will immediately increase neighboring property values. Plus adding residents who will have a vested interest in being good neighbors and property stewards,” Cinquanti said.

The homes would be sold to income qualified first-time homeowners who would receive financial literacy and budget coaching from the not-for-profit agency, Better Community Neighborhoods.

“We’re trying to raise the bar for individuals who wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford their own home. The pride of ownership and value of equity where somebody maybe didn’t know what their future held, grows a root pride in the homes and neighborhoods we restore,” Ruzzo said.

If the application from the city and Land Bank is successful, renovation work could begin as early as the spring. Ruzzo acknowledged pandemic related supply chain issues could impact the renovation timeline, but estimated work could be complete within roughly a year.

“We know the end result will be great, fully updated living spaces that will generate tax revenues for our city and quality of life benefits in each impacted neighborhood far into the future,” Cinquanti said.

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

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