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Activists: Make buying vacant zombie homes easier

Activists demonstrate in front of the New York

Activists demonstrate in front of the New York State office building in Hauppauge on Friday, May 13, 2016, where they called on Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) to act on zombie homes throughout Suffolk County. Credit: James Carbone

Community activists on Friday pressed lawmakers to pass state legislation that they said would make vacant homes available for affordable housing by expediting foreclosures.

About a dozen people from the groups Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change chanted “People over banks” and “Bail the people, not the banks” during a rally outside the state office building in Hauppauge. They said many Long Islanders seek homes they can afford while hundreds of foreclosed houses stand empty.

“Zombie homes are rotting away while people need homes,” said Mimi Pierre Johnson, political director of New York Communities for Change. “We don’t want to see any more zombie homes while people need housing.”

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has proposed a bill that would establish a statewide registry of vacant and abandoned houses and require banks to maintain empty homes in foreclosure.

The law also would speed up court proceedings for vacant, foreclosed homes, known as zombie houses.

The bill is awaiting passage in the State Senate and Assembly.

A yearlong Newsday investigation last year found Long Island municipalities spent millions of dollars in 2014 cleaning, boarding up and demolishing abandoned homes. More than a dozen major banks reached an agreement with state officials to maintain such homes after the Newsday series was published.

Levette Silas, 74, a Deer Park homeowner who took part in the Hauppauge rally, said her neighborhood is dotted with vacant homes.

“I’ve seen the community go down because of the boarded-up housing,” she said. “It takes away the value of our houses and our properties.”

Jose Lara, 53, a Brentwood construction worker who said his house was in foreclosure, said he hoped the state bill would help him keep his home.

“We want to make sure our families stay together,” he said.

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