Zombie Homes: New York State Fights Back

Zombie Homes.

They’re what homes are called when the owner can’t make the mortgage payment anymore, but the bank hasn’t yet taken ownership. They’re not really living — as in no one really owns them or is paying to own them, and they’re not really dead, or permanently abandoned.

New York Attorney Eric Schneiderman has fieled a lot of complaints about these unattended, zombie homes. Especially from firefighters saying the zombie homes are major safety hazards, reports Seattle Pi.

“You have communities that are on the edge of the foreclosure crisis, with five or ten abandoned houses. That hurts the tax base, forcing neighbors to pay more taxes. It lowers the property values, too. And then the neighborhood is in trouble.”

So not only are the zombie homes a problem unto themselves, it seems that they’re also infectious, poisoning the neighborhoods and communities around them. Like zombies. They’re an eyesore, a safety hazard, and a haven for crime and drug use.

Zombie homes aren’t just a problem in New York. They area a nationwide phenomena as communities try to come to grips with the fallout from the housing crisis. The problem is, of course, worse in states where foreclosures take the longest. Across the country, the average length of time it takes for a foreclosure to process is 400 days. In New York State, the average foreclosure takes around 800 days.

Currently in New York, one in ten of all mortgages are in danger of foreclosure.

In New York, Schneiderman has proposed legislation that would require lenders to maintain a zombie house once the foreclosure process has begun. Without regular maintenance, basic inattention to the plumbing, heating and cooling, and landscape can make property values plummet in a very short amount of time. Schneiderman’s proposal also includes creating a registry of zombie houses so that local officials would know which properties weren’t being properly maintained.

Several local communities in New York have created land banks which allow them to purchase, refurbish, and ultimately flip abandoned, zombie properties.

Katelyn Wright, an executive director at the Greater Syracuse Land Bank, talked about the severity of effects that zombie homes have on the surrounding area.

“Studies have shown that [zombie homes] have a dramatic negative impact on property values for the seven homes in the surrounding vicinity, but also less dramatic but still notable for homes in a several block radius.”

According to Fox Business, New York State currently has about 15,000 zombie homes.

[Image via Agonistica]