The state Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill lawmakers from both parties have promoted for weeks, a package of measures to combat the abandoned, unkempt properties that mar neighborhoods by giving authorities more power to force banks to maintain the homes on which they have foreclosed.
The 116-22 vote sends the bill, known as the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act of 2016, to the Senate. Most Assembly members representing Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties voted for the proposal; within that contingent, only Claudia Tenney, a New Hartford Republican with some Orange and Ulster towns in her sprawling district, voted against it. Among other steps, the bill would require lenders to maintain empty properties that are in “pre-foreclosure”; require periodic inspections of foreclosed properties; and create a statewide registry of abandoned properties.
The push for the bill began with a “bank shaming” campaign in which legislators held press conferences outside homes with overgrown lawns that banks had neglected after foreclosing on them. “No one wants to live next door to an empty home,” Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury, said in a press release in April after staging a “bank shaming” outside an empty New Windsor house. “But in many neighborhoods, sluggish foreclosure proceedings are causing long-term damage by allowing abandoned houses to fall into disrepair. And in some cases, banks are to blame.”
Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, a Deerpark Republican, announced his support for a trio of “zombie property” bills the following month, saying he had fought the same problem as Deerpark supervisor before becoming an assemblyman in 2015. “No one ever wants to have their home foreclosed upon,” he said in a statement. “But in that scenario it best benefits the locality and its residents to document and track the status of these properties so we can ensure they stay well maintained and suitable for occupancy in the future.”
Assemblyman Frank Skartados, D-Milton, chimed in with a press release after voting for the bill that passed this week: “In portions of Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, low property values provide little incentive for banks to settle costly and time-consuming foreclosure proceedings. This measure would force banks to be responsible for their properties that have been abandoned after owners have given up fighting foreclosure and have moved out.”