NYC agencies now resurrect zombie houses to tune of $1M
Abandoned, deteriorating homes pose public health, safety risk
The city’s Zombie Homes Initiative has now recouped more than $1 million in penalties from mortgage holders of vacant properties who failed to comply with New York State’s Zombie Property and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2016, commonly referred to as the “Zombie Law,” the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the NYC Law Department announced Tuesday.
Zombie homes are not haunted houses where ghosts and ghouls dwell. Rather, they are vacant, abandoned, and distressed small homes whose owners are behind on mortgage payments.
Many of these properties can be traced back to the 2008 foreclosure crisis, when small homeowners struggled with rising housing costs. Neighborhoods with high rates of foreclosure and vacancy still suffer from reduced property values and increased public health risks, such as rodent infestation or a risk of fire. Vacant and abandoned properties also place a fiscal burden on municipalities because of unpaid property taxes and utility bills.
New York’s Zombie Law curbs the threat that zombie homes pose to communities by requiring mortgage holders — banks and mortgage servicers — to inspect, maintain, and report vacant and abandoned properties or face penalties of up to $500 in fines per day.
HPD’s Zombie Homes Initiative partners with the Law Department, other city and state agencies and community stakeholders to take action against zombie homes that threaten neighborhood blight.
In partnership with the NYC Departments of Sanitation, Buildings and Law, the initiative has intervened to clean up, inspect dangerous buildings’ conditions, and/or bring legal action against the owners of nearly 1,300 zombie homes in violation of the law. To date, the program has secured over $1 million in penalties.
“Our administration is sending a clear message that blight is not welcome in New York City,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “No New Yorker wants to live next to an abandoned vacant lot, and we are holding absentee property owners accountable to ensure that we can expand this from a pilot into a permanent program that will continue to serve New Yorkers well into the future.”
The Zombie Homes Initiative will now become a permanent City enforcement program after launching in 2017 as a pilot with support from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).
In recent years, the initiative has aimed to breathe new life into zombie properties by facilitating their acquisition for new affordable housing opportunities with the help of several housing-related nonprofits.
“An abandoned property can pose serious health and safety issues for people and can be a blight on an entire community,” said NYC Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix. “The City of New York will hold banks and other mortgage holders fully responsible for turning a blind eye to their legal responsibilities to maintain properties and for negatively impacting New Yorkers’ quality of life.”
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