$75K grant will help Albion bring ‘zombie’ houses back to life

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 October 2016 at 11:55 am
Photo by Tom Rivers: This home on West State Street, behind the Post Office, is one of 43 houses in the Village of Albion considered a “zombie” property with no clear owner.

Photo by Tom Rivers: This home on West State Street, behind the Post Office, is one of 43 houses in the Village of Albion considered a “zombie” property.

ALBION – The Village of Albion has been awarded a $75,000 state grant to address “zombie homes” – abandoned homes that are not maintained during prolonged foreclosure proceedings.

Albion has identified 43 zombie homes in the village, Code Enforcement Officer Ron Vendetti said today.

“We want them to be assets,” Vendetti said. “We will do anything we can to get people in these houses.”

The state funding will help Albion implement a plan for researching which bank owns the vacant houses, market the sites to prospective homeowners, provide financial counseling for potential homeowners, and pay for legal work to possibly acquire the houses through Albion’s local development corporation (LDC) and then seek requests for proposals (RFPs) for the sites.

“We are going to develop a template for how to deal with this,” Vendetti said.

The zombie houses have troubled Albion and communities in New York for nearly a decade.

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced grants for $12.6 million to help  76 cities, towns, and villages across the state with “zombie homes.” The grants were awarded under the Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative, which the Office of the Attorney General established in July with funds drawn from the $3.2 billion settlement agreement with Morgan Stanley.

“Too many homeowners across New York are still struggling to rebuild their communities in the wake of the housing crisis caused by major banks,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I’m proud that the funding obtained by my office’s settlement with Morgan Stanley will now help cities and towns across the state reverse the proliferation of zombie properties, which invite crime and threaten the value of surrounding homes. These grants will help rebuild, revitalize, and stabilize communities across the state.”

The money will address housing vacancy and blight by bolstering municipalities’ capacity for housing code enforcement, for tracking and monitoring vacant properties, and for legal enforcement capacity to ensure banks and mortgage companies comply with local and state law.

The initiative coincides with the June 2016 passage of the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act, a bill that the Attorney General wrote.

Among other provisions, that law requires banks to register any properties abandoned by their owners with the Department of Financial Services and to maintain those properties during the foreclosure process, and not just once the process has been completed. Banks face significant fines for non-compliance.

The state will share the registry with localities and will run a toll-free hotline for individuals to report such properties. While accurate numbers have been hard to come by, Schneiderman’s office said it has been estimated, based on data released by Realty Trac in 2015, that there are some 16,000 zombie homes across the state.

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