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State pushing away 'zombie' properties

Rochester, N.Y. -- Properties like 1279 Lake Ave. are considered to be "zombie" houses, or homes that have sat vacant for years due to foreclosure.

"Properties that are stuck in a process, usually a foreclosure process that a bank has initiated but hasn't completed fully and it's sitting there with not a clear owner and with little direction as to what's going to take place," Rochester Neighborhood and Business Development Commissioner Del Smith said.

It's a process Smith said leaves the city's hands tied and can take months.

The Greater Rochester Housing Partnership said that lengthy process can have damaging effects on a neighborhood.

"Vacant properties can be a crime magnet," said President Jean Lowe. "People break in to squat in the property or steal metals in the property."

But a new push by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman would help revive hard hit communities plagued with vacant homes.

The bill would make lenders and banks responsible for delinquent properties soon after they are abandoned, rather than at the end of a lengthy foreclosure and require lenders to pay for their upkeep.

It's a bill 16 mayors across New York state endorsed including, Rochester's Lovely Warren.

"I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership on this issue," Warren said. "The problems created by abandoned properties have been well-documented, all of which we grapple with daily in Rochester. From vandalism to drug markets to plain unsightliness, this is a serious problem for all cities."

The program, Home Rochester, works with the city to buy vacant homes and sell them to first time homebuyers.

In the last 15 years, the program has renovated 645 homes.

The hope with this bill is that there will be less vacant homes, restoring pride on all city streets.

"We're excited about the bill because it keeps homeowners in the property longer, which is really important, and secondly because it will make the vacant properties less of a problem for the neighborhood and the neighbors," said Lowe.

Once the city takes over a foreclosed home, it evaluates the property to determine whether to rehabilitate the home, sell it or tear it down.





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Washington Times