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Breathing New Life into New York’s Zombie Properties

Breathing New Life into New York’s Zombie Properties

In NYC, the number of unoccupied apartments has grown 35% since 2014. Often abandoned by their owners and left to deteriorate, these properties look unsightly, threaten safety in the surrounding area, and lower the value of neighboring homes. In addition, with affordable housing often difficult to procure, they are a waste of highly valuable, inner city real estate. Legislation now means that essential repairs and maintenance of abandoned homes have to be carried out promptly. However, continued backing is required to see that they are fully brought back to life by being renovated and put back on the market.

Securing and Maintaining Abandoned Properties

Abandoned properties are often the result of foreclosure due to owners falling behind with mortgage payments. Three years ago, new state laws were announced requiring lenders or mortgage providers to report abandoned homes within 90 days, and ruling that they would also be liable for poorly maintained and unsecured properties. This would include ensuring that roofing, guttering and pipes are intact as a priority, since water ingress can cause catastrophic damage to a property. With large portfolios of abandoned real estate, leaving maintenance work to specialist contractors can take the pressure off lenders, and stop properties falling into disrepair.

An Ongoing Battle Against Zombie Homes

Even in a good state of repair, these empty properties need to be renovated to make them habitable. Having introduced the Zombie Homes Initiative in 2017 , the Department of Housing Preservation and Development now collates data on abandoned housing homes, and looks at ways to put empty homes back on the market. It also identifies homeowners at risk of falling behind with mortgage payments with a view to preventing foreclosure from occurring in the first place. Over the past few years, money has been made available for turning these properties around, and, more recently, a $9 million settlement has been pledged to continue the fight..

Increasing Odds in the Lottery for Affordable Housing

A successful renovation of a building in Hell’s Kitchen is now offering 18 apartments through the affordable housing lottery. The New York City Housing Authority provides public housing for more than 400,000 New Yorkers, and over 200,000 more receive assistance with their rent to enable them to live in private rented accommodation. Some of this housing is also offered through the lottery scheme. Mayor Bill de Blasio is committed to making more affordable housing available, promising more than 300,000 units by 2026. As a result, providing potential residents meet the lottery requirements, the chances of securing a home through a housing lottery has greatly improved.  

Abandoned homes are a problem in New York, and the numbers are continuing continue to rise. However, with the introduction of legislation and initiatives specifically designed to tackle the issue, more homes are prevented from falling into disrepair. Of those that do, an increasing number are being turned around to provide quality affordable housing for eligible NYC residents.

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