Falls steps up its fight against ‘zombie homes’ – Niagara Gazette

A series of city of Niagara Falls “zombie homes,” orproperties stuck without an owner in the limbo of foreclosure, are wearing a scarlet letter.

Five homes overseen by a national financial institution now have signs on their lawns reading:

How Did This Zombie Get Here? Were Looking At You, Citizens Bank!

The signage was placed earlier this week by the Department of Community Development under its Zombie Fight Project. The department’s director, Seth Piccirillo, said the homes decrease nearby property values and drag down neighborhood character but they are not beyond saving.

“These are houses that responsible people will buy, only if the bank completes the foreclosures and offers them for sale,” Piccirillo said in a prepared statement.”We are directly calling out banks, starting with Citizens, because the waiting game produces little result.”

“If public relations tactics help move the process along, that works for us,” he continued.

The department identified by the following homes in relation to this development to the zombie fight project: 502 77th St.,8220 Frontier Ave.,8414 Lindbergh Ave.,2444 LaSalle Ave., and763 16th St.

The process began in early July when Christine Marino, Zombie Project coordinator for the city, issued a letter to the bank which referenced those properties and two more. She and Department Code Enforcement officials had visited and identified multiple code violations at the homes.

They are among another20 homes submitted by Falls residents, and another 100 state-identified zombie homes in the city, which Marino and other have canvassed and evaluated in past months.

Marino’s is a three-year, grant-funded position created under state Attorney General Eric Schneidermans $12.6 million Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative. The Falls has secured a total of $250,000 through the program.

Her letter asked Citizens Bank to cooperate with the city in its attempt to revive the dilapidated properties.

“Taking care of the visible aspects and maintenance issues of these vacant properties is only one piece of the puzzle in the city’s fight against blight,” Marino wrote. “The other piece is getting the properties back into the hands of responsible homeowners who will ultimately revitalize the properties and our city.”

Rory Sheehan, a spokesman for Citizens Bank, said he could not discuss specific properties and ownership, but signaled the institution was open to cooperation. Sheehan noted the bank has made efforts to work with families in hardship to avoid foreclosure proceedings.

“All cases are different, but in the situation where a foreclosure does occur, we follow the process, which has several steps governed by law,”he said in a emailed statement. “While we cannot share specific details, we have been in contact with local officials and are committed to maintaining any property in this situation.”

Marino said the letter also functioned as a seven-day notice to the bank, which if not addressed would become a legal court proceeding. In an effort to bypass what Marino said she expected to be a “drawn out” process, she reached out to Citizens “to discuss expediting the foreclosure process.”

“Citizens Bank was unresponsive to our initial correspondence, and after many follow up calls and emails, their only response was that they are planning to fix the code violations, but had no clear timeline of when or how that would be done,” she said an email to the Gazette.

Marion added that when asked about expediting the foreclosure process, the bank offered no information and declined to put her in touch with staff who had access to such information.

“These are both insufficient responses,” she said. “Due to the lack of response from Citizens Bank, we will continue to legally pursue the code violations on these properties. We need the bank to do it’s job and complete the foreclosure process.”

See the article here:
Falls steps up its fight against ‘zombie homes’ – Niagara Gazette

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