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Editorial: Effort against blight is showing some successes

A recently renovated house in Kenmore is an example of what can be accomplished when municipalities, nonprofits and the public work together to fight blight.

The Kenmore house at 22 Allegany Ave. got new life after sitting vacant for nearly eight years following a fire in 2009. That’s when it began its second life as a “zombie” home. Such homes have been abandoned by their owners, but the mortgage holder refuses to complete the foreclosure process and take over the property. With no one responsible for maintaining the property, the homes quickly deteriorate and become eyesores.

The home has been salvaged and rehabilitated by Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp., the local land bank, after it was donated by JPMorgan Chase. Now the four-bedroom, two-bath, 1,380-square-foot home is ready to be listed for sale for nearly $125,000.

The land bank is one of the powerful tools being employed in the effort to rid neighborhoods of deteriorating homes. It has 35 properties in its inventory but wants to do more, according to the executive director. A new process will allow the land bank to sell some of its properties “as is,” accompanied by details of work that needs to be completed within a year to allow a lien to be removed and the buyer to take full ownership.

Elsewhere, the City of Buffalo obtained several houses in October’s foreclosure sale. The land bank used its “super bid powers” to acquire properties for itself and the city. Tenants are living in 17 of the homes and another 33 are vacant. Most are on the East Side.

The city is collaborating with Center for Employment Opportunities helping people get their lives back on track by using an organization that employs men and women recently released from prison and jail. Participants earn a paycheck for their work while learning valuable skills.

Another tool in fighting blight is the newly enacted Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative, under which the City of Tonawanda received a $150,000 state grant. Now officials are asking community-minded people with a background in real estate or code enforcement to serve on the Distressed Properties Task Force.

In Niagara Falls, the city is working to enhance its Zombie Fight Project through improved technology and data-based strategies.

These efforts are part of a far-reaching effort to prevent zombie homes and turn existing ones back to productive use in strengthened neighborhoods.

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