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Another Voice: Bank shaming targets delays in foreclosure process

By Michael P. Kearns

The “Bank Shame Campaign” started in Buffalo, moved to West Seneca and Lackawanna and has now reached Orchard Park.

This campaign entails placing a sign on incompletely foreclosed properties in order to draw attention to this national crisis and be a catalyst for change. On Sept. 4 I placed the third “Bank Shame Campaign” sign at 94 Elm St. in the City of Lackawanna.

At 94 Elm, the mess that is being left behind by Chase Manhattan Bank and Bank REO Servicing LLC is getting cleaned up and handled by the neighbors on either side of this home. What underscores the mess occurring physically at 94 Elm is that both banks have filed “lis pendens” paperwork to foreclose on the property, when only one is technically allowed to do so.

The reason for the confusion is that the banks try to duck responsibility for upkeep and maintenance by assigning the mortgage to other banks, after the borrower has defaulted on the loan and stopped making payments.

This leaves the community lost in trying to find out who to call to take care of rats and other vermin, overgrown weeds, overgrown bushes and in some instances squatters or vagrants who enter the premises.

Not all banks or credit unions are bad actors. Officials of some local banks who attended a press conference to support the upcoming Incomplete Foreclosure Summit recognize the need to discuss the vital issues related to foreclosures and vacancies in the community. The summit will be an important formal meeting between government officials, the banking and financial industry, the not-for-profit sector, the legal community and Western New Yorkers.

After receiving numerous phone calls from constituents in the 142nd Assembly District and now throughout New York State, the need for a comprehensive and meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders is apparent.

These banks recognize that a single home in foreclosure costs a neighborhood 1.4 percent in home value for the homes within an eighth of a mile from the foreclosed home. (Kathleen Engel, The Subprime Virus, page 145). We must go beyond understanding the real harm that these foreclosures cause and start acting to remedy this situation.

I want to thank everyone who attended this press conference and the third sign posting for recognizing the concerns and problems within the Western New York community and the need to come together to forge meaningful solutions at a foreclosure summit.

I also want to say a very special thanks to the neighbors of 94 Elm in going above and beyond the call of being a good neighbor in taking care of this property, which is not even theirs.

Michael P. Kearns, D-Buffalo, represents the 142nd Assembly District.