Abandoned “zombie homes” are a problem in many communities, driving down property values, attracting crime, and often creating safety risks such as fire hazards. Communities battle zombie homes and related urban blight in a variety of ways, ranging from fast-track foreclosure legislation to New York’s ongoing program of purchasing distressed mortgages in an attempt to keep homeowners in their homes. One symptom of zombie homes that more communities are fighting back against? Plywood.
Newsday reports that Oyster Bay, New York, has become the latest community to ban the use of plywood in boarding up the windows or doors of abandoned zombie homes, with a law forbidding the material taking effect this past week.
Oyster Bay spokesperson Marta Kane told Newsday that the town would begin alerting the appropriate homeowners, banks, and lending institutions that plywood was now banned, and that they were responsible for replacing the material. Failure to do so will result in the town replacing the plywood and then charging the relevant parties. The law also requires “banks that foreclose on homes to deposit $25,000 to cover any costs to the town to clean up or board up the property.”
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said in a statement, “The town strengthened the law to address quality of life concerns caused by dilapidated and vacant homes in our neighborhoods. Together with residents and local civic associations we are taking back our neighborhoods by cracking down on code violations and holding absentee landlords and lending institutions accountable.”
This shift from plywood to the use of polycarbonate “clearboarding” has been a trend in many communities across the country, with Ohio banning use of the material in early 2017. That came on the heels of Fannie Mae’s announcement in November 2016 that it would allow mortgage servicers to use clearboarding on vacant homes in pre-foreclosure. In June 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo set up a consumer hotline to take reports of zombie properties, of which there are an estimated 6,000 within the state of New York alone. More and more communities are embracing clearboarding as a means to fight some of the negative effects of zombie homes, and the keep them both more secure and less unsightly.
Louisville, Kentucky-based WDRB reported last week that Louisville’s 2018 budget allotted more funding for a new clearboarding initiative, targeting nearly 200 homes while the city pursues other legal actions. Louisville also increased its rate of foreclosures in the past year, initiating 96 foreclosures since July 1. Metro Louisville’s Vacant and Public Property Administration also demolished 57 homes during that period.