FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, November 3, 2017
CONTACT: Matthew Creegan, 212-863-7879

 

HPD ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF NEW UNIT TO COMBAT ZOMBIE HOMES IN NYC

HPD’s newly created team will canvass the city to identify “Zombie Homes,” and conduct outreach to New Yorkers who may be at risk of foreclosure


NEW YORK, NY – The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer announces the launch of HPD’s “Zombie Homes” initiative and the creation of a dedicated Zombie Homes Unit that will help the New York City Law Department hold non-compliant mortgage holders — banks and mortgage servicers — accountable for not maintaining vacant properties that are on the brink of foreclosure. The Zombie Unit’s work furthers the efforts of the 2016 New York State law to curb the threat that “zombie homes”—vacant, distressed, small homes whose owners are behind on their mortgage payments—pose to communities. The law requires mortgage holders to maintain properties they know to be vacant and abandoned, or face a $500 fine per property, per day, which the New York City Law Department can enforce.

The newly instituted Zombie Homes Unit has begun canvassing neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, and creating a zombie homes database. HPD has already started canvassing several neighborhoods, taking an inventory of zombie homes. New Yorkers can also refer properties they suspect to be zombie properties on HPD’s website.

"Vacant and abandoned zombie homes undermine the health and stability of our neighborhoods.  This new initiative takes a critical step towards identifying strategies to get these properties on track for new life, and helping to keep New Yorkers on the verge of foreclosure in their homes.” said Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer. “I want to thank LISC and Attorney General Schneiderman for their leadership in fighting the problem of zombie homes and ensuring the future strength and vitality of our communities.”

HPD received a $350,000 grant from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to implement a one-year pilot program and create three new positions within the Office of Neighborhood Strategies for the duration of the program. Funding for the $350,000 LISC grant was provided by the Office of the NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman (OAG) through settlement agreements with banks as a result of the foreclosure crisis.

“Too many New York homeowners are still struggling in the wake of the housing crisis,” said New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “I’m proud that the funding my office secured through our settlements with the big banks will help New York City tackle zombie homes, which undermine the safety and vitality of our neighborhoods. We’ll continue to work with our partners in government to ensure stronger and safer communities across New York.”

“We are pleased to grant New York City $350,000 as part of LISC’s vacant housing program and to partner with HPD to carry out this important work,” said LISC NYC Executive Vice President Denise Scott. “It’s hard to believe but, in the midst of the city’s overheated residential real estate market, there are still neighborhoods with many vacant houses stuck in foreclosure limbo. We look forward to working with HPD as it uses innovative strategies to inventory, evaluate and transform these vacant homes into affordable housing.”

This team will work with City and State agencies, as well as other partners and stakeholders, to conduct 500 exterior surveys of potential and confirmed zombie homes in Central Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, Staten Island, and the South Bronx; aggregate information about zombie homes through a new database; design new approaches to return zombie homes to productive use; and conduct outreach to homeowners at risk of foreclosure to inform them about foreclosure prevention resources.

Taken together, these efforts will maintain and strengthen affordable homeownership opportunities in NYC, decrease vacancies and thereby mitigate the citywide housing shortage, and stabilize neighborhoods burdened by abandonment and blight.

Zombie properties are emblematic of the lasting effects of the foreclosure crisis in neighborhoods throughout the city. Owners of small homes are confronted by rising operating and maintenance costs, struggle to make mortgage payments, and encounter barriers to credit. The widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy compounded these problems in many neighborhoods across Staten Island, Queens, and Brooklyn. These factors have made it difficult for homeowners to stay in their homes, and many are left with no choice but to abandon their homes and relocate.

Neighborhoods with high rates of foreclosure and vacancy suffer from reduced property values and increased public health risks, such as rodent infestation or fire risk. Vacant and abandoned properties also place a burden on municipalities, which face unpaid property taxes and utility bills, as well as the costs of making emergency repairs. Zombie homes are often in such poor physical condition that they are uninhabitable. While these homes are in financial and legal limbo, they reduce opportunities for affordable homeownership, contributing to NYC’s housing shortage.

“Zombie homes are a plight that affects neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. When banks or owners do not properly maintain or pay taxes on their properties, they can pose a safety and health hazard to the community,” said US Congressman Adriano Espaillat. “The Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s Zombie Homes Unit will work to prevent further foreclosures and return the vacant property back to homes. Given our current housing crisis, rehabilitating uninhabitable homes is an innovative solution that will generate affordable housing and revitalize communities. Today’s announcement will reduce abandonment and increase opportunities for affordability for all New Yorkers.”

"I commend the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development on this bold and timely initiative. Designing new approaches to return zombie homes to productive use will not only mitigate against potentially lowering property value in the neighborhood but also help to address the affordable housing problem in the district. Additionally, this grant-funded Zombie Initiative will serve as a deterrent to problems such as rodent infestation and squatting," said New York State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud.

"Zombie homes are a blight on our community, and they impede our efforts to recover from the foreclosure crisis," said New York State Senator Leroy Comrie. "I am glad to work with partners like HPD, LISC, and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to ensure that the banks and mortgage servicers that are responsible for these zombie homes are held accountable for their negligence."

"Foreclosure has a devastating effect on families and communities, leading to unwanted displacement and an increase in homelessness. For communities, there are potentially serious impacts on property values, vacancies, home prices and rents,” said New York State Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz, Chair of the Assembly Housing Committee. “I commend this initiative for its mission to turn vacant, abandoned properties into affordable housing stock and, at the same time, to prevent families from being forced into foreclosure in the first place."

"I applaud the mayor's initiative, which expands upon groundbreaking legislation we passed in 2016; designed to identify and address the issues of vacated and abandoned properties in our neighborhoods. We must continue to do all we can to combat the 'domino effect' of blight perpetuated by the cycle of foreclosed vacant and abandoned properties." said New York State Assembly Member Helene E. Weinstein, Chair of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

New York State Assembly Member Michael Cusick said, “All across Staten Island and New York State, zombie properties have diminished property values of neighboring homes. New York State passed a law, which went into effect in 2016, that would help the State crackdown on zombie homes. I am glad to see New York City take the initiative to create a unit, within the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, dedicated to holding non-complaint mortgage holders accountable for not maintaining their property. NYC residents can now rest assured that the city will be hands-on in addressing zombie properties.”

“The Department of Housing Preservation and Development is taking a positive step today in its commitment to discover, catalogue, and review so-called “zombie homes,” vacated properties with mortgages that cannot be paid. Today’s step, aimed at reducing the city’s housing shortage, is one part of what must be a comprehensive effort in city government to address the affordable housing and homelessness crisis.  It is one component of a larger effort that the city must take up, as outlined in the Housing Not Warehousing Act, to canvas and review all vacant properties citywide,” said New York City Councilmember Jumaane Williams.

“This initiative can be a tool to ensure that properties are being maintained and not let in limbo to rot in communities that desperately need housing. In the midst of a housing crisis, we need every resource to ensure that owners are kept accountable to their properties and address issues quickly in order to mitigate the impact of Zombie Homes,” said New York City Councilmember Ritchie Torres.

“So-called zombie homes are more than neighborhood blights; they are a drain on our capacity to provide safe, affordable homes for New Yorkers in need. Activating these properties that exist throughout central Brooklyn is important work, and I thank HPD Commissioner Torres-Springer for leading this on-the-ground effort,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

"My administration believes in providing housing opportunities of all types, and this includes home ownership. I am happy that the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development is taking a proactive approach in preserving at-risk homeownership opportunities through this survey of 'zombie homes' and outreach to their owners, and I look forward to working with them and other stakeholders to preserve the integrity of our neighborhoods and prevent the proliferation of 'zombie homes,'" said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

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