Foreclosures are on the rise across New York State, and state lawmakers want to stop abandoned properties from becoming eyesores that drive down property values in neighborhoods by holding banks accountable.
The Bronx leads the five boroughs in zombie foreclosures — properties that have been vacated by a homeowner who is being foreclosed on, but not being maintained by bank — with 45 percent of all foreclosures considered zombie properties by the attorney general’s office.
“Ladies and gentlemen, there are zombies in the Bronx,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman during Monday’s announcement on the steps of Bronx Supreme Court. “If you’re on a street with a bunch of abandoned properties, you’re also a victim of the crash. Your entire community is damaged.”
Zombie foreclosures jumped by 50 percent in the state from 2013 to 2014, with 16,701 homes becoming zombified last year. In New York City, there are 3,525 zombie homes, or 38 percent of foreclosed properties.
Supporters Schneiderman, Senator Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) and Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn)hope the bill will be passed by the end of the legislative session to help residents stay in their homes longer, and hold banks accountable for property management.
Elbin Mena from the Harding Park Homeowner’s Association, said their small community of 236 homes on the Bronx River has five zombie properties, some of which have been broken into.
Klein said for every foreclosed home on a block, property values can decrease by as much as $20,000, and many communities afflicted with zombie properties are communities of color that received subprime mortgages before the crash.
The revised Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act would let homeowners know they are allowed to stay in their home until a court orders them out, and would require banks to maintain vacated properties. The bill would also create a statewide registry through the Attorney General’s Office to keep track of vacated properties and penalize those who do not comply.