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'Zombie Fight Project' asks for neighborhood input

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Mon, Dec 5th 2016 03:35 pm

The Niagara Falls Community Development Department, through the new "Zombie Fight Project," is identifying vacant houses held by absentee owners or stuck in bank foreclosure. NFCDD needs help from local residents.

"Zombie houses do not easily show up on paper. We need to identify houses that have been vacant for a long period of time or have not been properly maintained, then take corrective action," said Seth Piccirillo, director of community development. "As always, we are looking to the neighborhoods for help, as residents know the most about the streets they call home."

Residents can email addresses and/or photos of vacant houses to [email protected] or call 716-286-8800 and leave a message. The Zombie Fight Project will create and maintain a list of "25 Most Wanted Zombies," and then work with all parties involved to expedite the foreclosure process, facilitate a sale or ensure the property is actually maintained to code, and then provide the community with bimonthly progress reports.

This approach will be applied to both privately and publicly owned properties as a way to improve and protect the quality of life in the neighborhoods. The project also includes mortgage consultation for residents who may be in danger of bank foreclosure, as well as housing improvements designed to help.

Earlier this year, the community development department was awarded a $250,000 competitive grant from Local Initiatives Support Corp., which will specifically fund new legal, inspection, renovation and community outreach efforts over the next three years. The goal is to employ technology and community-based tactics to more efficiently eliminate vacancy and blight.

A total of 76 grants were awarded statewide, under the Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative, which Office of the Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman established in July with funds drawn from the $3.2 billion settlement agreement with Morgan Stanley. Schneiderman, as co-chair of the federal-state working group on residential-mortgage-based securities, negotiated that agreement in February. The settlement generated $550 million in cash and consumer relief for New Yorkers. LISC, a national community development intermediary that specializes in affordable housing, economic development and community revitalization, is overseeing the initiative; selected the grantees; and will provide technical assistance to the funded municipalities as they implement their plans.

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