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Pass this bill to slay zombie homes across New York State

A boarded-up house in Brentwood seen on Dec.

A boarded-up house in Brentwood seen on Dec. 18, 2014. It is among the zombie houses on Long Island, according to California-based RealtyTrac. Credit: Chuck Fadely

Zombie homes are a scourge on Long Island and across the state. Legislation that would attack the problem is creeping closer to passage in the final throes of the legislative session in Albany, despite opposition from banks that would be required to maintain abandoned properties that are in foreclosure.

New York’s foreclosure process is fourth-worst in the country, at more than 2 1⁄2 years. The key to breaking the legislative logjam could be a proposal from Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) to create an expedited process so banks wouldn’t have to maintain abandoned properties for so long. It’s a sensible compromise.

Abandoned properties are a blight on communities and depress property values. A report issued this week by Klein and Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) about the glut of zombie homes in Croci’s Suffolk County district found that home values of properties near zombie homes drop by an average of $5,000. New York has the nation’s second-highest foreclosure rate — 1 in 21 homes in foreclosure, according to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. And a Newsday-News 12 Long Island investigation showed municipalities in the region spent at least $2.3 million in 2014 to clean, board up and demolish vacant, foreclosed homes. The numbers paint an abysmal picture.

Besides forcing banks to clean up these vacant properties and fining ones that don’t, the legislation would also require banks to register zombie homes to make it easier to track ownership.

Long Island’s legislative delegation generally has supported efforts to crack down on zombie homes, one more legacy of the 2008 mortgage crisis. Now it’s time for delegation members to flex their collective muscle and help bring this important piece of legislation home. — The editorial board