ALBANY – Two area communities are going to get help fighting zombie properties through a state grant.
On Tuesday, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that $12.6 million would be distributed among 76 cities, towns and villages across the state to help them fight the issue of abandoned and foreclosed properties.
The cities of Gloversville and Amsterdam will each receive $150,000. The grant will be spread out over two years.
Zombie properties are vacant and abandoned properties that are not maintained during a prolonged foreclosure proceeding.
The grants were awarded under the Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative, which the Attorney General’s office established in July with funds from the $3.2 billion settlement agreement with Morgan Stanley. Schneiderman, as co-chair of the federal-state working group on residential-mortgage-based securities, negotiated that settlement in February. The settlement generated $550 million in cash and consumer relief for New Yorkers.
The Local Initiatives Support Corporation, or LISC, is a national community development intermediary that specializes in affordable housing, economic development, and community revitalization, it is overseeing the initiative; selected the grantees; and will be providing technical assistance to the funded municipalities as they implement their plans.
“Too many homeowners across New York are still struggling to rebuild their communities in the wake of the housing crisis caused by major banks,” Schneiderman wrote in the news release. “I’m proud that the funding obtained by my office’s settlement with Morgan Stanley will now help cities and towns across the state reverse the proliferation of zombie properties, which invite crime and threaten the value of surrounding homes. These grants will help rebuild, revitalize, and stabilize communities across the state.”
According to Schneiderman’s announcement, the City of Amsterdam will conduct surveys of vacant properties and establish a vacant properties database.
Gloversville 3rd Ward Councilman Vincent DeSantis said the city would hire a Neighborhood Quality Adminstrator and a clerical position that would be a part of the city’s enforcement and blight team.
DeSantis said the Neighborhood Quality Administrator will coordinate the aspects of code enforcement in the city, including regulations for garbage collection, blight, maintenance along with the vacancy ordinance.
“This would be a person who would be able to coordinate all that,” DeSantis said.
That employee would not issue citations, but instead receive and convey the information.
“This is going to be a real game-changer for us,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said the new position would help out the other departments currently handling some code enforcement duties including the fire department and public works.
“The agencies that do the code enforcement have other duties,” DeSantis said. “This person would be dedicated to code enforcement.”
The city has recently introduced a vacancy registry for the more than 300 vacant properties that are currently in the city.
DeSantis said this position would help with this, since an enormous amount of follow-up is needed for the plan.
“This is really the thing that makes it all happen,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said the other aspect of this is that the attorney general has a program to help people in danger of foreclosure. He said the Neighborhood Quality Administrator would also help key people into programs to prevent foreclosure in the first place.
“One of the big reasons why the state offered this money is because they want to try to prevent foreclosure and aid homeowners that may be in danger of foreclosure,” DeSantis said. “This is one of the key elements of the job this person will do.”
DeSantis said the city hopes to have someone in the job by the end of the year.
Kerry Minor covers Gloversville. She can be reached at [email protected].