Foreclosure Task Force to fight ‘zombie homes’
The term “zombie home” has entered the vernacular in Western New York communities through the past several years, referring to a home that is left vacant by homeowners following the beginning of the foreclosure process by a bank.
Such homes become a blight on the neighborhoods they inhabit. Local officials at both the town and county levels have worked to prevent homes from falling into this kind of limbo in which neither the homeowners nor the banks feel that they are responsible for maintaining the property.
Recently, Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns was joined by Kate Lockhart of the Western New York Law Center, as well as representatives from several local housing and realty groups, to announce a new countywide foreclosure task force. Kearns and the WNY Law Center are launching the Erie County Zombie Foreclosure Task Force to address the pervasive issue of foreclosures throughout the county.
In January, Kearns initiated the Neighborhood Foreclosure A.L.E.R.T. Program to track foreclosures filed at the clerk’s office. Through the program, Kearns generated a report finding that more than 600 foreclosures have commenced since January 2018.
These 617 new foreclosures are scattered throughout various municipalities, with the city of Buffalo, and towns of Cheektowaga and Tonawanda rounding out the top three.
According to a report from the Western New York Law Center, the Town of Clarence had 17 properties with lis pendens filings between January and June. The lis pendens process is the notice of mortgage default and is the first document to be filed with the county clerk.
Out of the 42 municipalities in Erie County, 33, or nearly 80 percent, had at least one lis pendens filing within the first six months of 2018, the Western New York Law Center report said. Foreclosures are thus affecting more than three-fourths of Erie County in the first half of the year.
The task force is a collaborative response to the foreclosure problem throughout the county.
While many municipalities have their own distressed property task force, the mission is to enhance these efforts, distribute strategies with proven results, create new solutions and make changes to foreclosure law on a county and state level.