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$13 million in grants for local governments can be used to fight 'zombie' properties in NY

Tom Magnarelli
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman addresses reporters at Syracuse City Hall.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced $13 million grants for communities to attack the problem of zombie properties. The funds come from a recent settlement that the state attorney general’s office and the U.S. Justice Department reached with investment bank Morgan Stanley.  

Local governments will be able to apply for grants ranging from $75,000 - $350,000. Schneiderman, during an appearance in Syracuse, said the funds will allow communities to track and monitor abandoned or foreclosed homes, which can bring down the value of other homes in the same neighborhood.

“We don’t actually know exactly how many zombie properties there are in New York," Schneiderman said. "We estimate that there are more than 16,000 but that’s an estimate. Central New York as a whole was hit very hard. There are a lot of zombies in central New York generally and we think this part of the state is going to benefit tremendously from the program."

Syracuse Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter said the banks have left municipalities to deal with zombie-related issues.

“Houses that are boarded up, we are using local resources, like the fire department like code enforcement, to go to these homes to make sure they are safe, that there are not water issues, that there are not vermin running around,” Hunter said.

There is flexibility on what governments can do with the grant money. It could be used for code enforcement but also as outreach to homeowners who need help navigating foreclosures. Schneiderman said the funds can also be used to make sure banks and mortgage companies are complying with local and state laws. 

The Local Initiative Support Corporation, which is coordinating the program, wants to move the money out quickly and expects applications returned by August 16.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.