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16 LI communities win $3.3M to deal with ‘zombie’ houses

The zombie home in Massapequa is pictured Wednesday,

The zombie home in Massapequa is pictured Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Sixteen Long Island communities have won $3.3 million in grants to monitor vacant and abandoned “zombie” houses and hold owners and lenders responsible for maintaining them.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is expected to announce Tuesday that awards of $350,000 each will go to the towns of Brookhaven, Huntington and Smithtown. The town and village of Hempstead will share a $350,000 grant, and the towns of Oyster Bay and Islip will receive just more than $349,000 and $339,000, respectively.

Other grants range from about $75,000 to be shared by the Town of Babylon and the Village of Amityville, to $175,000 for the Town of Southampton.

So-called zombie homes spread on Long Island after a wave of foreclosures stemming from the 2007-2009 recession. The grants will help municipalities enforce housing codes, monitor vacant homes and make sure lenders abide by local and state laws requiring them to maintain properties, according to the attorney general. To prevent homes from being abandoned, the grants also will help connect homeowners with services to help them stay in their homes.

The Town of Brookhaven’s award “will enable us to catalog all of the zombie houses in the town and go after them in terms of ensuring that the property maintenance is done correctly and if it’s not, to seek fines against banks that do not maintain properties,” Edward Romaine, town supervisor, said Monday.

In Brookhaven, the owners of roughly 2,000 homes have stopped making mortgage payments, and in many cases they have abandoned their properties, Romaine said.

The grants are part of a statewide, $13 million program funded from a $3.2 billion settlement Morgan Stanley struck with state and federal agencies earlier this year over problems with mortgage-backed bonds. Schneiderman helped negotiate the accord.

Zombie homes “invite crime, threaten public safety, and drive down the value of surrounding homes,” Schneiderman said in a statement. The grants, he said, give communities “the tools to eradicate them, and to help families stay in their homes and not abandon them in the first place.”

 

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine was incorrectly identified.

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