NIAGARA FALLS – The City of Niagara Falls is making plans to go zombie hunting - or more specifically zombie house hunting.
Zombie houses, the remnants of the foreclosure crisis, often are abandoned and decaying while the bank goes through the foreclosure process.
The City of Niagara Falls plans to take action with its “Zombie Fight Project” - if it wins a state grant.
“One of the difficulties with zombie properties is there is no single registry that tells you where the zombies are,” said Mayor Paul A. Dyster.
He said neighbors are often the ones who alert code enforcement or community development to tell them that someone has moved out and no one is caring for the property. Dyster said the city will go in and try to find out what has happened to the property and often find that a house has been abandoned in the midst of a foreclosure.
The state Local Initiatives Support Corporation is making $13 million in grants available to address housing vacancy and blight.
The City of Niagara Falls was one of 100 communities invited to apply for funding in the first round of state grants for this program.
Cities, towns and villages which have at least 5,000 residents and more than 100 vacant properties are eligible to apply for the grant. Grants are expected to range in size from $75,000 to $350,000, depending on the size of the community and the scale of the problem.
Part of the goal of the program is to have cities work with banks to prevent zombies in the future.
It can sometimes take years for a property under the threat of foreclosure to move to resolution, but the New York State Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act of 2016, which was signed into law in June, requires banks and other mortgage holders to maintain vacant and abandoned properties throughout the foreclosure process.
Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo said Niagara Falls plans to seek a state grant and will learn in the fall if it has received an award. Funds requested would also be used to hire a coordinator for the zombie fight who will lead a property task force, be involved in public outreach, create a database of zombie properties, create a check list for inspections, contract with legal services and work with Niagara Falls Community Development to reach displaced homeowners regarding mortgage modifications or renovations.
“What we are trying to do is to add additional capabilities based on zombies. We have been giving them a high priority, but once we get the grant, this will give us the opportunity to hire a person whose only job is working on zombies,” said Dyster.