New York News
5:03 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

NY AG Schneiderman Announces Legislation To Kill "Zombie" Properties

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was in Troy with several other Capital Region Democrats today to discuss new ways to help homeowners facing foreclosure across the state.

Attorney General Schneiderman joined local and state officials and housing advocates at the Troy Rehabilitation & Improvement Program, Inc. to announce two pieces of legislation aimed at aiding homeowners facing foreclosure and helping municipalities deal with vacant properties.

“In Troy, in the Capital Region, and all across our state, the impact of the foreclosure crisis is unlike anything our state has ever seen before,” said Schniederman.

The Attorney General announced one bill that would change state law to increase the maximum number of land banks in New York from 10 to 20. Under a state law signed in 2011, some municipalities have had the power to create land banks – not-for-profit companies that are tasked with redeveloping vacant or abandoned properties.

Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC

The other bill would require lenders to take responsibility for abandoned, blighted “zombie properties,” and would also create a statewide registry of the zombie properties to assist municipalities enforce maintenance codes.

Scheniderman said vacated properties under a federally-insured mortgage already require lenders to care for them, but the legislation would make it easier for local governments to enforce that policy.

“It’s hard to find out sometimes to figure out who has title to a property, and we want to make that easier,’ said Schneiderman. “The goal here is to help people stay in their homes, help people who are in communities with abandoned properties revive their blocks, revive their communities, strengthen communities.”

Assemblyman John McDonald, a former mayor of Cohoes, spoke in support of the AG’s efforts, saying his city has struggled with maintaining and keeping track of abandoned buildings.

“And it causes such a nightmare for the community to deal with these properties,” said McDonald. “We used to joked that we ran the Cohoes landscaping company. We would cut the grass, take out the trash…”

Troy Mayor Lou Rosamila, who was joined by Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, said Capital Region communities are all struggling with the foreclosure crisis.

“It creates that loss of revenues and that public safety issue that we see,” said Rosamila. “We said it before and we’ll say it again, when one property starts to deteriorate and becomes a blight, it starts to affect everyone.”

The Attorney General also provided an update on the success of his office’s Homeowner Protection Program. Also known as HOPP, the program has served more than 23,000 New Yorkers since launching in October 2012. Under the program, 6,660 approved or pending loan modifications have been issued as a result of legal aid given to those facing foreclosure.

I-Asia White received help through Legal Aid of Northeastern New York, a HOPP grantee, after facing foreclosure brought on by medical bills when her child was dealt a life-threatening injury. White thanked Schneiderman for his continued support of the program.

"I want to thank the Attorney General for setting up this program, and making sure families like mine have a fair, and opportunistic chance.”

According to RealtyTrac, approximately 1,100 properties in the Capital Region are likely “zombie” foreclosures. More than 15,000 such homes could exist statewide.

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