Photo Courtesy of the Attorney General’s Office
State Attorney General Tish James
By Forum Staff
The State has updated and expanded a grant initiative to address the growing issue of “zombie homes”—vacant and abandoned homes that are not maintained during a prolonged foreclosure proceeding, State Attorney General Tish James announced on Saturday.
“Zombies 2.0,” a continuation of the 2016 Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative created by the AG’s office, will provide up to $9 million in grants to municipalities across the state to address housing vacancy and blight. The grants will supply funds to municipalities to increase housing code enforcement, track and monitor vacant properties, and bolster legal enforcement capacity to ensure banks and mortgage companies comply with local and state law, according to James.
The Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative provided nearly $13 million in grants to 76 New York municipalities. This year’s grant will allow previous recipients to continue their previous work, or will give first-time grantees the opportunity to secure funding to support their zombie and vacant property efforts.
Through the grants provided by the ZRPI, municipalities:
• Improved data collection and analysis to track vacant and abandoned properties;
• Invested in new technology to better collect and analyze data to address the collective impact of vacant properties on neighborhoods;
• Created “Zombie Coordinators” and task forces to coordinate code enforcement activities and resources;
• Boosted capacity of code enforcement and legal departments to enforce relevant laws to hold lien-holders accountable or seek remedies to improve housing quality; and,
• Connected at-risk homeowners to foreclosure prevention resources.
According to James, the Zombies 2.0 funding is a result of the AG’s $500 million settlement with the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2018 over the bank’s deceptive practices and misrepresentations to investors in connection with the packaging, marketing, sale, and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities leading up to the financial crisis. The settlement marks a total of $22 million investments in zombie grants funded by settlements from banks.
“Far too many communities throughout New York continue to be blighted by zombie homes,” James said. “These abandoned houses significantly decrease property values and threaten the safety of surrounding neighborhoods. Zombies 2.0 will be a key resource for cities and towns across the state to combat this nuisance, and make communities whole.”
According to the AG’s Office, Local Initiatives Support Corporation is managing Zombies 2.0 with funds administered by Enterprise Community Partners. LISC will issue a Request for Applications by invitation to municipalities based on the number of abandoned residential properties within the municipality; the proportion of such properties compared to the overall number of residential properties; 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, or multiple municipalities can apply jointly to equal or exceed the population and vacant residential properties minimums.
Applications are due Friday, March 8. Awards are expected to be announced April 12, 2019.
LISC expects to award grants in amounts ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 based on the scale and severity of their “zombie” and other vacant one-to-four family house problems.