Democratic Attorney General Nominee Letitia “Tish” James Announces Plan to Rehabilitate Zombie Properties

NEW YORK -- Today, Democratic Attorney General nominee Letitia “Tish” James announced her plan to rehabilitate so-called “zombie homes,” vacant structures stuck in the foreclosure process that plague communities around New York. She was joined -- in front of a former zombie home undergoing renovations in East Patchogue, Long Island -- by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who has been instrumental in restoring these homes, Assemblymember Kimberly Jean-Pierre, and Suffolk County Legislator Monica Martinez.

 

“Although New York’s foreclosure crisis is over, zombie homes remain -- blighting our neighborhoods. The laws and resources are in place to help rehabilitate communities, but we must continue to enforce and fund these programs. As Attorney General, I will use all the powers at my disposal to redevelop zombie homes, and make our neighborhoods whole,” said Democratic Attorney General nominee Letitia “Tish” James.

“Halloween is just around the corner, but we are turning this zombie home into a state of the art fixture. The Suffolk County Landbank is a statewide model for how to revitalize distressed properties in the wake of the financial crisis. I thank Letitia James for her willingness to listen, advocate, and as our next Attorney General help to expand on these successful programs,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

A zombie property is a vacant structure -- typically a one-to-four-family house -- with a mortgage that is stuck in foreclosure process. The owner-resident has abandoned the property, but the bank has not taken over the title or responsibility -- leaving the property in limbo, with no one clearly responsible for its upkeep. These properties, which become damaged from weather, scavenging, squatters, and criminal activity, have a negative effect on neighboring property value. Because the ownership is often difficult to ascertain, municipalities cannot use their typical enforcement mechanisms to keep the buildings safe.

The number of these properties soared after the Great Recession, hitting a peak of 16,777 in 2015. Long Island is particularly hard hit. Statewide, 2.1 out of every 1,000 homes is a zombie -- compared to 4.13 on Long Island. In some communities on Long Island, the rate reaches 20 zombie homes per 1,000 houses.

As Attorney General, Tish James will: 

  • Continue to fund and support initiatives, such as the New York Land Bank, that use innovative approaches to transform abandoned, vacant properties into rehabilitated affordable housing;
     

  • Aggressively enforce New York’s Zombie Law so repairs are done and penalties obtained; and,
     

  • Go after banks and loan servicers who improperly stand in the way of loan modifications that could prevent the foreclosure in the first place.

To read the full plan, click here.