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County lawmakers seek remedy for zombie homes

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

Erie County is asking Albany for some help in dealing with the problem of zombie homes. Officials believe the county is home to 800 zombie properties, vacant homes allowed to deteriorate as the foreclosure process grinds to a conclusion.

Erie County Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo knows about the zombie home issue because there is one in his West Seneca neighborhood. It is one of more than 90 in the town.

County legislators voted yesterday to ask for a change in state law which would speed up the foreclosure process, which currently leaves those homes vacant and deteriorating for up to six years.

According to Lorigo, the change would allow the county to "foreclose on properties that have been abandoned one year sooner, which means we could sell them off to people in the public who want to buy them, rehabilitate them and get them back on the tax rolls."

It's not clear if the problem is getting worse, although it probably has more visibility.

Albany has to change the law controlling a county foreclosure in order for that process to be sped up. Once the legislation in Albany has bill numbers in both houses, there will be a Home Rule message asking the Legislature to pass the change and for Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign it.

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.