KINGSTON, N.Y. – Since the state announced a $150,000 grant two years ago, the administration of Mayor Steve Noble has taken some steps to do battle with so-called “zombie” properties.
In October 2016, then-state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the city would receive $150,000 to help reduce the number of zombie properties, which are vacant and abandoned houses that are not maintained during prolonged foreclosure proceedings.
At the time, Noble said the funding would be very useful.
“These funds will help us to advance the city efforts to improve the overall quality of housing and reduce the negative impact these properties have on neighboring properties,” Noble said in an email at that time. “We intend to use a comprehensive, multilayered approach, which will include policy development, planning, assessment, enforcement, and strategic community partnerships.”
Megan Weiss-Rowe, the city’s director for communications and community engagement, said last week that City Hall has acted since the $150,000 grant was announced in October 2016.
“The Local Initiatives Support Corporation grant was secured to help the city support residents who are at risk of foreclosure and to address zombie and vacant buildings that negatively affect property values and present health and safety hazards,” Weiss-Rowe stated in an email.
Weiss-Rowe supplied bullet-point examples of city measures to convert zombie properties:
• Outreach to at-risk residents to connect them to foreclosure prevention assistance, as well as the state department of Financial Services.
“(We) identified distressed homeowners, local human services agencies, and financial institutions (and) purchased Tolemi’s Building Blocks software to increase capacity to identify, inventory and address problem properties,” Weiss-Rowe said. “Property inventory and information has been uploaded and staff have been trained in the use of the software.”
• Increased employment of a part-time administrative assistant to full-time to increase the Economic and Community Development Office capacity for additional outreach.
• Hired a full-time code enforcement officer.
• Sought and received approval in March from Empire State Development for the designation of the Kingston City Land Bank Inc.
“We are awaiting a certificate of incorporation from (the Department of State) and in the process of applying for (non-profit) status,” Weiss-Rowe said.
She added the city is also in the process of filling the Kingston Land Bank board of directors and creating policies and procedures.
• Will engage a consultant to complete a comprehensive, city-wide housing analysis including the collection of all existing housing inventory and planning information and compilation into one document or database. A request for proposal has been completed and is expected to be advertised in a few weeks.
The state grant to Kingston was from a pool of $12.6 million administered by the state Attorney General’s Office to help 76 cities, towns and villages address the zombie property problem.