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Long Beach creates registry to clean up, monitor 'zombie' homes

Long Beach officials say a home on Barnes

Long Beach officials say a home on Barnes Street is foreclosed and vacant. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Long Beach city officials have created a registry of foreclosed “zombie" homes that have been abandoned and fallen into disrepair.

City Council members last week unanimously approved the new registry, which includes hiring a contractor to track homes and to collect up to $500 from banks in annual fees for each foreclosed property.

Long Beach has fewer than 100 zombie properties, but city officials said it has become near impossible to track the owner of each one and it has fallen to city park and beach maintenance crews to make repairs, cut grass more than 2-feet high where raccoons breed, and clean out homes of rotting food.

“It’s very hard to make someone responsible, and the banks are very hard to track down,” Long Beach Building Commissioner Scott Kemins said. “Our beach maintenance crews have better things to do than mowing people’s lawns.”

The city issued a request for bids during the summer and received one from Melbourne, Florida-based Prochamps, which specializes in zombie registries to fight blight.

Acting City Manager Michael Tangney said he expects to vote on the contract at the Sept. 20 council meeting.

The city will not pay a cost for the service. The vendor would track homes and bill banks and mortgage holders, collect 20 percent of the $500 registration fee and give the remainder to the city to cover any expenses. 

A complaint by neighbors is usually when the city is first told of a possible zombie home. Officials will post a notice and reach out to the last listed owner, who has 10 days to bring the house up to code. If the city gets no response, city employees will clean up the property and place a tax lien on the home that must be paid by the bank or lender before a mortgage can be sold.

Long Beach is modeling its zombie registry after the Town of Babylon’s Mortgage-in-Default registry, which requires properties to be reported within 10 days after a default and monthly inspections conducted by the city buildings department.

Long Island has faced zombie homes since the housing bubble burst 10 years ago. Long Beach officials said the problem was exacerbated by superstorm Sandy. Although the majority of Sandy homes have been repaired or sold back to the state under the NY Rising program, some homes remain in foreclosure and in disrepair from the storm.

City officials said about 50 homes were sold through NY Rising, but some Sandy homes were abandoned and turned over to the banks.

"In the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, many Long Island communities face the problem of empty and abandoned homes. The City Council is listening to residents and is responding to the concerns that these abandoned homes can negatively impact the surrounding properties” City Council Vice President Chumi Diamond said. 

Long Beach Mortgage Default registry

Number of foreclosed or zombie homes: 50-100

Annual fee for registry billed to banks: $500 

Portion of fee to Long Beach: 20 percent

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