UTICA, N.Y. — Utica, Syracuse, and Binghamton are among more than 45 communities that will use a total of $9 million in grant funding to reduce the number of “zombie” homes.
Zombie homes are vacant or abandoned homes that aren’t maintained during a prolonged foreclosure proceeding, the office New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a Wednesday news release. James announced the grant during a visit to Utica that day.
Besides Utica, Syracuse, and Binghamton, the cities of Auburn, Elmira, Fulton, Geneva, Ogdensburg, Oneonta, and Rome will also get funding from the program dubbed “Zombies 2.0.”
The funding from “Zombies 2.0” will provide 48 municipalities with the resources needed to address housing vacancy and blight, the attorney general contends. The program is a result of the $500 million settlement in 2018 between the attorney general’s office and the Royal Bank of Scotland. The settlement was over the bank’s “deceptive practice and misrepresentations to investors relating to the packaging, marketing, sale, and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) that can lead to financial crisis,” the attorney general said.
The grants will provide funds for municipalities to increase housing-code enforcement, track and monitor vacant properties, and bolster legal-enforcement capacity to ensure banks and mortgage companies comply with local and state law.
“Too many communities throughout New York State are blighted by abandoned homes that decrease property values and threaten the safety of our neighborhoods,” James said. “These grants will go a long way in supporting municipalities and ensuring they have the resources they need to combat this nuisance.”
The selected municipalities will use grants ranging between $50,000 and $500,000 based on the size of the community, the scale and severity of their zombie problems, and their proposed use of such funds.
The grant awards continue the 2016 Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative. The New York attorney general’s office created the program to address housing challenges, “especially vacancy and blight.” It also tracks and monitors vacant, abandoned properties to help cities and towns to clear out zombie properties, the attorney general said.
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