By Sadef Ali Kully
A City Council resolution which asks for funding from city, state and federal monies to remedy the foreclosed and zombie homes that have plagued northern and southern Queens was introduced last week .
The resolution calls on the state Legislature and elected officials to allocate funds received through settlements with lending institutions for subprime and predatory loans to those communities after the 2008 mortgage crisis hit the nation. In 2012, nearly $600 million was allocated by the federal government to New York state for loan modifications, refinancing and to pay for legal services and housing counseling for borrowers facing foreclosure. Additionally, the state received nearly $1 billion from other settlements related to foreclosure litigation. From the $248 million in settlement funding allocated in the 2015-2016 general budget, less than $100 million is projected to be utilized for housing assistance programs.
The resolution, authored by Councilman I.Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and sponsored by Council members Ruben Wills (D-South Ozone Park), Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), Inez Barron (D-Brooklyn), Deborah Rose (D-Staten Island), and Daniel Garodnick (D-Manhattan) asks for city, state and federal funds from the settlement to help New York families to find relief from foreclosed properties.
The foreclosure crisis in New York City has been largely concentrated in southeast Queens, central and eastern Brooklyn, and the Bronx. More than 9,000 homes have defaulted since April 2013 in southeast Queens, according to the resolution.
“There are a number of public and private funds that can be used to help families keep their homes,” Miller said.
The resolution says the funding may in turn be utilized to assist homeowners by providing housing counseling, legal services, and funding for buybacks of mortgages from the federal government.
“This is the first step to reclaiming the wealth that had been seized from our community through subprime and predatory lending,” Miller said. “It is vital that we utilize foreclosure settlement funding to make whole those homeowners most impacted by this crisis. I am hopeful that our representatives in Albany will be receptive towards this resolution and look forward to continuing to partner with them and our colleagues in the federal government on this issue.”
The City Council is now in negotiations with the Federal Housing Administration to help fund part of the resolution.
Miller explained that foreclosures have a ripple effect on the community. When a home goes into foreclosure, a family loses their home and a neighborhood loses its value and can become plagued by zombie homes, which are uncared for and abandoned properties.
“When banks do nothing, we end up with zombie homes,” the councilman said. “We are hoping to get Council, admin (mayors’s office) and state funding. Vacant and distressed homes could be turned over and sold back to the community at a reasonable amount.”
“There are many ideas and this has really taken on a life of its own,” Miller said. “The biggest thing is we address these issues as a whole community but mostly to protect the economy of the community. More than 100,000 homes went under foreclosure during the crisis and 9,000 just in southeast Queens.”
If the resolution passes, then southeast Queens dubbed “the foreclosure capital” as the epicenter of the mortgage crisis, has been chosen as the area where the pilot program would be first implemented.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull