New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced a $1 million grant for housing and code enforcement efforts in the city of Albany.
The money is part of the Cities for Responsible Investment and Strategic Enforcement or RISE program. James, a Democrat, spoke at Albany City Hall Tuesday. "And with the grant Albany will work to fund a program called the Good Neighborhood School, and to support education and meaningful engagement with landlords and tenants in collaboration with the court system. The city will also invest in legal help to target demonstrated bad housing actors and enforce levied fines, provide tentative neighborhood advocates support, to resolve housing issues and to ensure healthy safe homes for vulnerable populations and more."
James presented the mayor and city officials with an oversized check. Mayor Kathy Sheehan says Albany will use the grant to support education as well as engagement with landlords and tenants in collaboration with the court system. Sheehan says there's a story behind every "Red X" building in Albany. "Behind another Red X might be a house that's tied up in probate, where you had an individual who passed away, didn't make any plan for their estate, has no living heirs, and a house sits empty year after year, waiting for a process that can seem interminable. And so we understand now at a much deeper level, and it can be hard for those who don't live here, and don't live in our most challenged neighborhoods to really grasp the complexity of a problem that was created by decades of racism, redlining, bad policies, lending practices that were predatory, speculative investments, inequity in infrastructure. All of these are challenges and d things that led to what we see."
Assemblyman John McDonald of the 108th district praised Sheehan's work fighting distressed properties. "She took a very evidence based fact driven approach. Get your inventory together, identify where the problems, identify the stories behind each and every one of these properties, and then go out there and get the resources. Thanks to support the Attorney General today, those resources are being delivered to the city of Albany."
Where did the money come from? James says "The program is funded from a residential mortgage-backed securities Working Group settlement with Goldman Sachs as a result of the foreclosure crisis. It was it was a $5 billion settlement. New York received $670 million."
Sheehan says the funding will also cover two positions — an additional city attorney and a multi-lingual liaison who will act as a neutral arbiter between residents and landlords throughout the city.