For The Daily Gazette
Schenectady’s revitalization is underway, but there are still obstacles to navigate on the road ahead.
And one of the most pressing challenges this community continues to encounter remains vacant properties that have fallen into disrepair.
Renovating downtown spaces, redeveloping industrial sites and attracting new companies are all essential elements in economic growth.
However, it’s important that we also stay focused on revitalizing neighborhoods through community investment and homeownership.
Like most big challenges, working together will be the most effective way to strengthen our neighborhoods — and there’s a role we all can play.
Earlier this year, the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) was expanded to Schenectady County.
This innovative program helps transform abandoned houses that drag down nearby property values into rehabilitated, owner-occupied homes that foster economic stability.
Importantly, it brings together multiple partners who work hand-in-hand to help interested home buyers purchase and renovate vacant, distressed properties.
It also builds on the progress jump-started by the Home Ownership Made Easy in Schenectady (HOMES) initiative.
At the direction of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) engages local nonprofit housing agencies — in Schenectady County, Better Neighborhoods, Inc.— to administer the NRP.
Along with other stakeholders, such as local government officials, program partners identify eligible homes and encourage qualified buyers to pursue ownership and rehabilitation.
Once under contract to purchase a property, home buyers apply through a SONYMA participating lender.
A list of local participating financial institutions can be found on the New York State Homes and Community Renewal website at www.nyshcr.org.
While many are involved, there is one partner who is more important than all of the others: the home buyer.
They become the real heroes at the heart of our collective efforts to revitalize our communities.
And to encourage eligible home buyers to restore abandoned homes, the NRP provides attractive incentives — up $20,000 in assistance for home repairs.
NRP home buyers are also eligible for SONYMA Down Payment Assistance, a no-interest loan to help buyers complete their purchase, as well as other support and guidance.
Finally, we’ve all heard the phrase, “It takes a village.”
Usually it’s used to describe the support needed to raise children, but it fits here, too.
It takes a lot of work to revive an abandoned home—and you can help.
It doesn’t always have to be with a hammer and nails.
You could volunteer with Better Neighborhoods, help with a community clean-up, or simply thank a neighbor who purchased a vacant home and encourage others to consider it.
There’s a role for all us.
So, let’s roll up our sleeves, get to work and strengthen Schenectady, together.
Paul Hurley is a CRA mortgage originator at M&T Bank in Ballston Lake.