Rochester land bank board gets down to business


The board of the new Rochester Land Bank Corporation met for the first time yesterday and, as its first significant undertaking, it'll apply for funding from the state Attorney General's Office.

Earlier this month, the AG's Office announced plans to take a $20 million chunk from New York's share of a large national mortgage fraud settlement and make it available to the state's eight land banks. The organizations have to apply for the funding, which the office plans to award on a competitive basis. The land banks face a September 20 application deadline. (The Rochester Land Bank Corporation board plans to meet at 4 p.m. on September 17 to make sure it has an application that's ready for submission.)
New York's land banks are essentially nonprofits with their own boards that have more flexibility than governments to address tax delinquent, abandoned, and foreclosed properties. Initially, the city planned for the land bank to take title to 25 properties a year, which it would transfer to the Greater Rochester Housing Partnership's HOME Rochester program. Through that program, the partnership rehabs homes and sells them to first-time buyers earning less than 120 percent of the city's median income.

During yesterday's meeting, land bank officials indicated that the funding from the attorney general's office could open up additional opportunities, though they didn't mention specifics.

"We have an opportunity to be even more effective," said city Director of Development Services Bret Garwood, who the board members elected as chair.

The meeting was otherwise focused on organizing the land bank corporation's board and actions including:
  • Adopting a slate of officers. In addition to selecting Garwood as chair, city Director of Housing Carol Wheeler was selected as vice chair, city Treasurer Charles Benincasa was selected as board treasurer, and George Parker, an attorney appointed to the board by Mayor Tom Richards, was selected as secretary.
  • Setting meetings for the 3 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month, with September serving as an exception. The location of the meetings is to be determined.
  • Approving several financial reporting policies required by state public authorities law.
  • Establishing several committees, also required by state public authorities law.