Assemblyman John Ceretto held an event Thursday on Grand Island. He was joined by Assemblyman Michael Kearns and Grand Island Town Supervisor Mary Cooke to highlight what he called the flawed foreclosure process and its impact on communities.
Ceretto is working to pass legislation that would hold lenders responsible to ensure foreclosed properties are maintained and surrounding neighborhoods are not negatively affected (A.6932).
"There are several problems with the current foreclosure process, and it is leading to a large number of abandoned properties throughout New York state," Ceretto said. "Niagara and Erie counties alone have over 100 abandoned homes, not only in cities, but in residential neighborhoods. We must remedy this problem to keep our communities safe."
Kearns noted, "We started this journey in the City of Buffalo back in 2011 at 44 Arbour Lane, where we had a successful resolution to a problem property. Working with our partners, we will continue to display signs every Friday until the banks get the message and clean up their houses.
"Once again, we identify HSBC - another national bank - as playing a role in banks not being responsible neighbors to the broader community. At the pace of these problem incomplete foreclosures, we may run out of signs."
Cooke said, "Abandoned homes are a huge frustration, consuming endless time and town resources with little progress. New York state laws give us the longest foreclosure process in the country.
"Houses need to be occupied; empty houses deteriorate very quickly, especially if they're empty over the winter. Changes in the foreclosure process have to be made to solve this problem. Once a house falls into disrepair it is too late."
State Sen. Mark Panepinto added, "The negligence being shown by major financial institutions across New York state is shameful. Their continued inattentiveness toward these 'zombie' properties negatively impact our neighborhoods, increasing the potential for criminal behavior while driving down property values. This kind of careless behavior must be stopped. I am proud to co-sponsor legislation to hold these financial institutions responsible and to highlight this critical issue with my fellow lawmakers today."
Ceretto said New York has the third-highest number of "zombie" foreclosures in the U.S. He said the problem is not limited to cities: Smaller towns and communities are experiencing a rise in the number of "zombie" properties, including Grand Island.
These properties are not only unsightly, but can lower property values in an area and are often used for criminal activity, Ceretto's camp noted. He is pushing for the passage of the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act to require lenders to inform homeowners of their rights early in the foreclosure process and hold lenders responsible for the upkeep of vacant properties to prevent "zombie" sites from harming neighborhoods and burdening residents and taxpayers.
Further, the legislation would mandate mortgagees and their loan servicers identify, secure and maintain vacant and abandoned properties earlier in the delinquency process and electronically register properties in a "Vacant and Abandoned Property Registry." This, Ceretto's camp said, would help families stay in their homes longer and create an organized method to track abandoned properties to prevent "zombie" occurrences.