Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a new grant initiative to address the growing statewide problem of “zombie” homes in New York. The Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative will give $13 million in grants to local governments throughout the state through a competitive application process.
The 100 communities with the greatest problem of zombies and vacancy have been invited to apply for the funds and 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 grants also require communities to develop innovative programs and policies and connect at-risk homeowners to services so they can avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. The initiative coincides with the recent passage of the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act.
“Too many communities across this state have been hit hard by the proliferation of zombie properties,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “This new grant initiative puts tools directly in the hands of towns and cities across the state to reverse course, rebuild from the foreclosure crisis, and put zombie homes in the rear-view mirror.”
Funding for the initiative will be drawn from the $3.2 billion settlement agreement with Morgan Stanley that Schneiderman, as co-chair of the federal-state working group on residential-mortgage-based securities, negotiated in February. That settlement generated $550 million in cash and consumer relief for New Yorkers.
“Foreclosed and abandoned properties are a serious problem in our neighborhoods, affecting quality of life for residents and forcing localities to spend precious resources on monitoring them,” said Senator David J. Valesky. “I commend Attorney General Schneiderman for taking steps to address this issue. I am confident these grants will make a difference here in Syracuse and across the state.”
The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a national community development intermediary that specializes in affordable housing, economic development, and community revitalization, is running the grant program. LISC selected the grantees for this program based on the number of abandoned properties within the municipality; the proportion of such properties compared to the overall size of the municipality; and its level of general economic distress. All invitees must have populations of at least 5,000 residents and at least 100 vacant and abandoned properties.
“The financial crisis might seem like a distant memory to some, but the vacant properties left in its wake are continuing to destroy the quality of life in many of our communities,” said Denise Scott, executive vice president with LISC. “Local leaders now have a strong policy framework, and LISC is helping deliver targeted resources and housing expertise, so neighborhoods can recover. We are gratified to be working closely with Attorney General Schneiderman’s office to help municipal leaders across the state take effective action against zombies.”
LISC expects to award grants in amounts ranging from $75,000 to $350,000, depending on the size of the municipality, the scope of its zombie problem, and its track record and capacity for addressing such issues. Each municipality must also include a prevention component in its application, to connect families to services that help families avoid foreclosure, including programs supported by the Attorney General.
“Rehabilitating blighted properties and putting them back into productive use improves the quality of life in our neighborhoods and generates more property tax revenue for municipalities,” said Mayor Stephanie A. Miner, City of Syracuse. “This grant program will support cities like Syracuse as we continue to deal with ongoing issues presented by zombie properties. I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his ongoing commitment to housing issues faced across the State of New York.”