Thousands of “zombie homes” continue to blight communities across New York, but housing advocates are praising the Assembly’s recent passage of legislation that would go a long way toward attacking the problem.
But some policy experts also say the legislation, which now faces a battle in the Senate, provides only some solutions to the problem. They say it will take a “blend” of legislation to prevent and maintain vacant and abandoned properties, as well as assist local municipalities with dealing with them.
Empire Justice Center’s Kirsten Keefe created a “blueprint” of active legislation that could do so. Here are five key pieces:
- The Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act (A.6932A/S.4781A): This bill, introduced by Attorney State General Eric Schneiderman, was approved by the Assembly last week and would require banks and other mortgage lenders to maintain properties during the foreclosure process, which in some cases can take about three years. It will also create a state public registry, and it authorizes localities to take enforcement action. Fines of up to $1,000 per day can be levied for properties that aren’t properly maintained.
- The Community Restoration Fund: This fund would help avert foreclosures by acquiring distressed properties at a discount and passing on the savings to homeowners through affordable modifications, where possible. In cases where there is no feasible debt restructuring, the Fund could instead help a homeowner find new housing and then rehabilitate or demolish the property depending on the needs of each neighborhood. The Center is a member of New Yorkers for Responsible Lending, a coalition of statewide housing groups that is supporting the fund.
- Zombie Remediation Act of 2016 (A.9655/S.7295): This legislation would allow municipal governments to compel banks to complete foreclosure proceedings or discharge the mortgage for any certified abandoned property.
- Land bank legislation (A.7848/S.5776): Allow land banks to enter abandoned properties and examine them with the possibility of acquiring them.
- Mandatory settlement conferences: (A.1298/S.5242): The legislation makes mandatory settlement conferences more efficient in an attempt to avoid foreclosures that lead to abandonment of properties.
For a fuller description of the bills, and their potential impact, check out this chart from Empire Justice Center: