Two Democrats in the Nassau County Legislature have proposed establishing a county land bank that they say could turn hundreds of abandoned houses into affordable homes.
The bill's sponsors, Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) and Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), said the nonprofit land bank corporation would work with Nassau municipalities to acquire, rebuild and sell vacant houses, such as "zombie homes" abandoned by homeowners during foreclosure proceedings.
"Zombie houses are plaguing our county," Curran said. "It's time the county took bold action to tackle this problem."
A yearlong Newsday investigation found that Long Island municipalities spent at least $3.2 million last year cleaning, boarding up and demolishing vacant homes, including zombie houses. Nassau and Suffolk have more than 4,000 vacant and foreclosed houses, officials have said.
"These zombie houses bring down the property values of surrounding homes, are a blight in our communities, act as a magnet for crime and vandalism, and create unsafe conditions for our families," Bynoe said in a statement.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said she is "reviewing the proposal" while awaiting an alternate plan from Republican County Executive Edward Mangano to deal with abandoned homes. "We will then determine the best way to proceed," she said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for Mangano said the county executive has drafted "similar land bank legislation" and will be submitting it this week.
Suffolk established a similar land bank in 2013.
The Nassau land bank initially would seek state and federal grants to fund projects. Sales of rehabilitated houses would allow the bank to fund itself, Curran and Bynoe said.