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Linking housing data seen as key to revealing zombies

Local government computer systems are filled with information about good and bad housing, good and bad landlords and the continuing rise of zombie properties. Now there is a push to have all of those computer systems talk to each other and tell the public what is there.

In many corners of the city, slum housing and slumlords are a real problem. Some are written up for code violations and are then sent to Housing Court for action and possibly sent to Housing Court many times.

For Council President Darius Pridgen, the problem is that citizens can not easily access all of that information and it is not always easy for Common Council members either. Pridgen said there are constant requests for the information.

"I don't know if a week goes by, or even a day almost, where we don't get calls into individual offices about different properties in different neighborhoods that are dilapidated, not being cared for," Pridgen said. "And, people can look on the city's website and see basically who owns it, but what they cannot see is, is it in Inspections yet? Does it have violations on it? Is it in court?"

The Council has passed legislation to create a slumlord database. Now, it is up to the Brown Administration to move it forward.

Longtime zombie house critic Assemblymember Mickey Kearns said Erie County has now agreed to make public who is paying taxes on the zombies, which makes them responsible for doing something if they are not kept up and maintained.

"Everyone pays county taxes and by them putting online who is paying the taxes beyond just the original owners or the people who may have lost the home, whether it's Bank of America or HSBC, it's very, very important because then we know who's responsible and if we know who's responsible, we can hold them accountable," Kearns said

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.