Despite the intense demand for housing in New York City, vacant and abandoned properties continue to destabilize and blight many of our communities. Last week, our Executive Director Christie Peale testified at a hearing held by the City Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee on the problem of vacant and abandoned properties.
Vacant and abandoned properties reduce the supply of much-needed housing and diminish quality of life and economic opportunities in affected neighborhoods. They present health and public safety hazards for community members and lower property values for nearby homeowners.
The Center testified that foreclosure is a major contributor to New York City’s vacant and abandoned residential buildings. Nationally, about 20% of properties in the foreclosure process have been vacated by their owners, and there are an estimated 10,000 vacated homes in foreclosure in the New York City metro area alone.
In our testimony, we made the following recommendations:
Continue to support foreclosure prevention services: We believe that the best strategy for combating foreclosure-related abandonment is to prevent foreclosures in the first place. New York City foreclosure prevention counseling and legal services provide essential assistance to homeowners struggling to keep their homes. Homeowners can access these services by calling 311 and asking for the Center for NYC Neighborhoods.
Monitor properties that are vacant or at risk: The City would greatly benefit from a unified approach to identifying and monitoring vacant buildings. By implementing an annual citywide count of vacant and abandoned properties, as well as utilizing existing data, the City could effectively target properties for zoning enforcement and help guide acquisition of properties.
Provide affordable homeownership opportunities: When a foreclosure cannot be prevented, it is essential that the City work to acquire foreclosed properties to ensure that they do not fall into the hands of speculators. We at the Center are concerned by a trend highlighted in a recent New York Times article detailing the emerging securitization market backing the acquisition of foreclosed homes and their conversion into rental properties. We recommend an approach to foreclosed homes that creates new affordable homeownership opportunities for low and middle income New Yorkers.
You can read our complete testimony here.