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Proposed bill targets bank owned zombie homes

Posted: 5:55 PM, May 16, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-17 13:33:51Z

The figures are alarming. According to a new report, there are 2,000 zombie properties in Erie County. Those are homes that are abandon and in foreclosure. They're rundown and hurting your property value if you have one nearby. What's worse is that only 600 can be linked to a bank.

Lawrence Kwiatkowsk said he has to look at a zombie home every time he leaves his house. “They put on a different garage door now. But, the other one was a wood door and the whole bottom panel was rotted out. Plus the side door was rotted out,” he explained.

Kwiatkowski said it's been like that for years. “The banks just let it go and I don't understand why. If they have that kind of house and they took care of it, they could've got a good dollar for it.”

According to Assemblyman Michael Kearns (D-South Buffalo), banks often sit on a property to avoid paying interest. “What really disturbs me is we have local banks that won't give us their list and won't comply and help us make sure that we know what's going on in our communities,” he said.

His legislation would require a bank to provide contact information for all foreclosed homes. That includes a phone number and address of whoever is responsible for property maintenance. “We want the banks to be good neighbors and come forward,” Kearns added.

Kearns has already started the bank shaming campaign. The campaign call outs a bank right on the dilapidated property by hanging a sign with its name so it’s front and center. The aim is to force banks to complete the foreclosure process so vacant homes can be put on the market.

West Seneca Town Councilman Gene Hart said the campaign is working. He said there were roughly 90 zombie homes in West Seneca when he took office almost five years ago. Since then that number has been cut in half. “Things are moving and we think it has a lot to do with Assemblyman Kearns’ effort to draw attention to this problem.”

But, more needs to be done and Kearns said his legislation will go a long way in holding banks accountable.

The legislation also has support in the state senate. The assembly bill is on Monday’s calendar. But, there’s no word whether it will be brought up for a vote or set aside.