NYC program focuses on refurbishing and selling


NEW YORK — From derelict to affordable, thousands of homes creating eyes in urban neighborhoods may soon be a beacon of hope in a tight real estate market.

TBEN’s Lisa Rozner has more on “zombie houses” and has an exclusive look from Jamaica, Queens at a city program expanding to change them.

For over 10 years, Rosemary Gadson has watched a house on 170th Street collapse. It has a damaged roof and a cracked foundation.

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“It’s just run down, you know, and nobody’s doing anything with it,” Gadson said.

Records show it was sold in 2009 and may have fallen victim to the subprime mortgage crisis, as did a house nearby on 160th Street.

Many houses from that time – 2007 to 2010 – make up the zombie houses that can be seen in the five boroughs.

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State law defines a zombie home as one- to four-family homes that are abandoned and vacant, and 90 days or more overdue on their mortgage, meaning they are in the foreclosure process, which can take years.

“It brings down the values ​​of other people’s homes,” Gadson said.

Rozner spotted one of 1,200 zombie houses in the city’s zombie house database, but officials estimate it could be about 2,000 in reality.

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Business Insider economics reporter Alcynna Lloyd said New York has the most of the country.

“Evictions are on the rise, as are foreclosures,” Lloyd said. “There are a lot of zombie houses, especially in areas that are densely populated with people of color.”



The New York State Zombie Act passed in 2016 creates an online database of zombie homes and places the responsibility for the maintenance of the properties on mortgage holders. If they don’t, they can be fined up to $500 per day by the city.

“You have a situation where the lender isn’t getting any interest payments or debt service payments, and now you’re asking them to fix up and maintain a house that they’re not entitled to,” says Sam Liebman, a real estate broker. expert.

“Now the bank has to get title to that property before they can fix it. So now they have to go through the legal system and the legal system is supported. One solution would be if a court document doc says zombie house accelerated through the system. So that we houses back into use.”

New York City has hit a milestone, recouping more than $1 million in fines.

Chris Servidio of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development showed TBEN examples such as chipped paint, detached structures and an unintended entryway that could attract critters.

“We typically collect between $100 and $200 a day,” said Servidio, deputy director of Tenant Engagement and Special Projects at HPD.

After being fined nearly $20,000 over a two-year period, HPD TBEN showed the lender transforming a home on 189th Street, shutting windows, installing a padlock, and putting a sign on the house indicating who is in charge of the property. good.

The enforcement program began in 2017 as a pilot, and HPD exclusively told TBEN that it will be made permanent.

The long-term goal is to acquire the zombies and bring them to life so that low- and middle-income New Yorkers can buy them.

“We are in direct contact with those lenders to talk to our various nonprofit partners through various types of donations or low-cost sales,” said Chantella Mitchell, executive director of the HPD Office of Development’s Home Ownership Initiatives.

She refers to partners like Restored Homes, who have bought a cluster of homes around 105th Avenue. The previous owners took out federal loans but were unable to pay.

Salvatore D’Avola, executive director of Restored Homes, showed Rozner one.

“There will be three bedrooms and a bathroom and a half on this floor,” he said.

In a few months, the two-family home will be available for nearly $640,000 through an affordable housing lottery that HPD will manage. That’s just over $200,000 below market price according to Treasury Department data.

“When was the last time you sold something?” Rozner asked D’Avola.

“Two years ago. We had over 2,000 candidates for that cluster of homes, 23 homes,” he said.

Another ready to move will cost nearly $475,000, nearly $200,000 below market price. Yvonne Berrios has lived next door for ten years.

“We moved in, bought the house, and then it became vacant — bad, bad, bad, bad,” Berrios said. “Before they fixed it, drug addicts came.”

Long-sought veteran Anthony Coker won the lottery in 2019. He now owns a one-bedroom Mitchell-Lama co-op in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.

“I have stability, so I know I don’t have to move anymore,” Coker said. “I can walk to work. I can, you know, see people raising their families in my community.”

And he helps families stay in their communities and helps them apply for the upcoming homeownership lottery through the nonprofit Restoration Plaza.

“We’re already seeing the people who grew up here in Bed-Stuy, in Brooklyn, central Brooklyn, a lot of them are moving, especially families of color,” Coker said.

Gadson said she dreams of owning.

“I always pass by and look at it and say, ‘I’d like that house,'” Gadson said, adding, “because this is a good neighborhood. The churches are here. The people are nice.”

And it may only be a matter of time before the city blight turns to light.

The city says zombie homes make up less than 1 percent of New York City’s multi-family homes, but with expanded enforcement planned, that number could grow.

Christina Wley, the executive director of the New York Mortgage Bankers Association (NYMBA), told TBEN: “NYMBA commends New York State for leading the way in standardizing vacancy and vacancy notices, real estate maintenance expectations and vacancy records. real estate with state-level mortgages through the 2016 zombie laws. Still, there are opportunities to improve its impact and application.

“New York State’s foreclosure process, one of the longest in the country, remains a major concern of the NYMBA and its members. While the zombie laws of 2016 created the ability to expedite the execution of vacant and abandoned properties, the judicial system has not adopted a consistent process to deal with these matters, reducing its intended benefit.Despite adherence to the property maintenance requirements of the Zombie Laws of 2016, as well as mortgage investors and insurers such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD , delays cause unnecessary adverse effects on properties, neighborhoods and communities.

“NYMBA remains willing and eager to work with all stakeholders to explore opportunities to improve the foreclosure process and the impact of the 2016 zombie laws to improve our communities in New York State.”

The New York State Mortgage Bankers Association said the program would be more beneficial if the state’s judicial system accelerated the execution process. Right now, it says it’s a “major concern” that New York City is taking longer than most other states.


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