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Rochester’s HOME Program Hunting Down Zombie Houses

Room AdditionThe average American home has nearly tripled in size in the last 50 years, and while many homeowners choose to renovate, some houses simply sit empty, which has earned them the title “zombie houses.”

These homes have drawn massive amounts of attention to the issue of abandoned homes, especially in Rochester, and government officials are finally doing something about it.

On June 14, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $22 million for a new Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which will subsidize and finance the purchase and renovation of up to 500 foreclosed and abandoned homes across the state.

In the Finger Lakes region, HOME Rochester will take the lead.

Greater Rochester Housing Partnership president Jean Lowe and her organization have been buying and renovating homes since 2015 with this program.

“They came and they saw what we were doing,” Lowe said. “They recognized the value of what we were doing and they were flexible enough that they could manipulate the program a little bit so it fits into what we were already doing.”

The grant money is part of a larger plan to combat the zombie property crisis in New York, which has been steadily growing.

Zombie homes happen when the bank starts a foreclosure process but never finishes, essentially leaving the property without an owner.

“Abandoned and foreclosed zombie properties drag down surrounding home values and can impact the economic health and public safety of entire communities,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement.

The state’s New York Mortgage Agency plans to allocate $22 million in JPMorgan Chase settlement funds to make home loans available to low-income home buyers. The applicants could each receive up to $20,000 in no-interest loans for home improvements.