In a bid by the city to stave off urban decay, Albany homeowners and developers can now apply for up to $50,000 to purchase and rehabilitate blighted buildings.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan spoke outside two buildings being rehabbed along Clinton Avenue's 300 block Tuesday afternoon, kicking off a $1 million vacant building initiative: "And these are examples of properties that are just incredible treasures, beautiful buildings that we would never want to lose. But they are also examples of the challenge of bringing back these buildings, because the cost to rehabilitate these buildings far exceeds the market value that they will have when they are completed. And so, we need to ensure that we have grants and other funding resources available, so that we don't create more blight in our community and that we don't tear down what is really the incredible bones of this neighborhood."
The money comes from a 30-year-old HUD loan that was re-paid to the city. Albany's vacant building count hovers around a thousand, mostly in the Arbor Hill, South End and West Hill areas. "Under this program, residential properties owned by individuals, the Albany County Land Bank and the Albany Community Development Agency will be eligible for funding up to $50,000 per building. This funding will enable renovation of significant housing stock. And we hope that it will serve to bring distressed city blocks back to life and increase the property values of surrounding properties, as well as create construction jobs, affordable housing, and dramatically enhance quality of life."
The city will monitor all projects and provide assistance. Recipients of grants are encouraged to use other funding sources and tax credits that may be available.
Many of the city's dilapidated structures that the mayor wants to "bring back to life" are marked with a red "X" that lets emergency responders know the building is on the "too dangerous to enter" list. The rehabbing process can be a costly one.
Albany County Land Bank Executive director Adam Zaranko: "In the City of Albany, currently we have over 60 vacant and abandoned buildings of sale and about another 70 that we recently acquired from the county through the tax foreclosure process that we're evaluating and will likely go to sale. Every building purchased from the Land Bank requires some level of re-hab. Some a lot more than others. We know that rehabs require time, sweat equity, effort and money. Fortunately through programs like the Vacant Building Rehabilitation program, there can now be more opportunities available for those that wish to undertake such programs."
Zaranko adds Albany County extinguishes back taxes owed on properties conveyed to the Land Bank.
There is a rolling application period with no set deadline. The mayor is hoping the grant program will attract "lots of applicants."