Five Albany buildings to be rehabbed by Habitat, land bank

Albany

Five vacant Arbor Hill buildings will be the first to be rehabbed by the Albany County Land Bank in a partnership with the city and Habitat for Humanity that will transform them into affordable housing.

Work will start early next year on 100 and 102 Lark St., city, county and land bank officials announced Friday — followed by 309, 311 and 315 Clinton Ave. just around the corner.

The two buildings in the worst shape — 311 and 315 Clinton — are still owned by the city’s community development agency, which will invest $368,000 to begin the rehab process before turning them over to the land bank and Habitat to finish the job and find new owners, Mayor Kathy Sheehan said.

Sheehan said the outsized price tags to rehab the sagging Clinton Avenue buildings is why many private developers would decide they’re simply not worth the investment.

“Don’t tell that to the people who live in this neighborhood,” Sheehan said. “It’s about more than just dollars and cents. It’s about bringing these neighborhoods back.”

Katie Bronson, executive director of the land bank, said teaming with Habitat for Humanity to do the rehab will significantly cut project costs.

The city is contributing an additional $25,000 toward the work on each of the five buildings, which will be matched with $90,000 per building from the $2.8 million the land bank received from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Albany’s share comes from the $250,000 it initially committed to the land bank when it formed last year.

For Habitat, the project represents a further departure from its traditional model of building new homes, like the 14 nearing completion on lower Sheridan Avenue as part of larger plan to rebuild the blight-ravaged Sheridan Hollow neighborhood.

Nearby 126 Lark St. was one of the nonprofit’s first ReHabitat projects in the region. Each newly-restored home is sold to a qualified homebuyer with a zero- or low interest mortgage.

“We’ve really re-committed ourselves to look at the existing buildings in Albany,” Habitat Executive Director Christine Schudde said.

The land bank was formed to steer blighted properties around the county to responsible developers capable of rehabilitating them and putting them back on the tax rolls.

Many of the properties it controls have been diverted from the county tax foreclosure auctions to keep them out of the hands of speculators who buy them without concrete plans and allow them to further decay.

jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com518-454-5445@JCEvangelist_TU