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Concerns raised over abandoned properties

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For many taxpayers across New York State, the worst nuisances on their blocks are the decaying buildings which no one appears to own. The  buildings are often referred to as "Zombie houses."


It's a result of the foreclosure crisis which began seven years ago as the residential housing market crumbled. The usual process is to foreclose. For lending institutions, the problem is that means they have to take over and maintain the buildings and many don't want to.

"Local governments have a hard time even figuring out who owns a Zombie property. Homeowners have abandoned them. The banks haven't completed foreclosure," said state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

"I've met with mayors all across the State of New York, police Chiefs and others who are concerned about the fact that we have an increasing number of abandoned properties that they can't do anything about. The number of Zombie properties is going up."

Figures from Schneiderman's office show there were 99 Zombies in Erie County last year, up from 39 the year before and it's not just an urban problem since there are 108 in Orleans County, up from 82 the year before.

There's legislation in Albany to deal with the problem but there is significant opposition from banks which would be required to take over and maintain the buildings, even before the foreclosure takes effect.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.