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Higgins bill presses banks to move on foreclosed houses

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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Congressman Brian Higgins announced proposed legislation on Tuesday which aims to cut down on the length of time a foreclosed or abandoned property lingers until it is finally sold. It's a bill supporters say protects families who cannot afford to keep those homes, as well as protects property values for neighbors.

Higgins' proposed Vacant Homes Act of 2015 sets time limits for banks to act on offers for foreclosed properties. They would have no more than 90 days to respond to a sale offer on a foreclosed home. If that offer is rejected, the bank or mortgage holder must justify their rejection and also prove that the property may receive a better offer within a one-year period.

New York State has the fourth-longest foreclosure period in the nation, with an average 934 days spent between filing an action and selling a property at auction.

That lengthy waiting period, Higgins and supporters say, hurts not only the property but the entire neighborhood.

"Vacant foreclosed homes tarnish neighborhoods and communities and leave neighbors living on these streets with no recourse," Higgins said.

The house on the lot where Higgins stood, on Trudy Lane, has been abandoned for an undisclosed but lengthy time. The grass appeared to be left uncut for at least a month. Covering a battered roof was a tarp placed over it last winter but is also damaged. Shreds from the tattered tarp could be seen in the grass. Neighbors say some of the tatters blow on to their properties.

Among the neighbors who watched Higgins' news conference on Trudy Lane was Dan Fedyk, who has lived in the neighborhood for about eight years but is concerned that abandoned properties on the block will hurt his own home value when he decides to move.

"It's almost like I'm fighting a losing battle to sell my house," he said.

Supporters say the bill helps families who cannot keep their homes have a chance to sell on a short notice and move on with their lives.

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