JAMESTOWN – The Democratic challenger for the local State Assembly seat is drawing attention to the need to address zombie properties in areas across New York State, including here in Chautauqua County.
New York State Assembly candidate Barrie Yochim of Jamestown is challenging incumbent Andy Goodell (R-Chautauqua) for the 150th Assembly seat that covers all of Chautauqua County. On Tuesday, Yochim said that unlike his opponent, he’s in favor of a recently announced plan to fight back at the growing number of zombie properties in New York State, known as the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act. It was presented in May by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Schneiderman’s proposal requires that banks clearly notify homeowners who’ve fallen behind in mortgage payments that they are still allowed to live in the home during the foreclosure process and they should also be given any opportunity possible to catch up on mortgage payments. If the homeowner abandons the property before the foreclosure is completed, the bank would then become immediately responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the property. Schneiderman’s plan would also require a statewide registry of properties that are in the foreclosure process, making it easier for residents and local municipalities to identify who is responsible for the upkeep when the property becomes blighted.
Currently there is no law that requires a bank to follow through on the upkeep of a property during the foreclosure process- which often times results in the property falling into neglect and disrepair, becoming what is known as a “zombie property.”
Earlier this year Goodell had said he does not support the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act, on the grounds that it could result in higher interest rates and liability costs for all property owners, due to banks having to be financially responsible for any property going through the foreclosure process (which can take months and sometimes even years to take place).
Instead, Goodell would rather see changes to the current foreclosure law, making it easier and, as a result, faster for banks to foreclose on properties. He believes a more efficient process would result in the banks getting the property back on the market sooner and thus preventing it from falling into disrepair.
Yochim, however, says that’s taking an approach that is in the bank’s best interest, and not in the property owner’s or neighborhood’s best interest. Yochim says Goodell’s suggestion could actually make it easier for banks to foreclose on properties by taking away certain rights and mechanisms that currently exist for homeowners who are behind on their mortgage, but still want to work to keep their property.
Yochim said that if elected to the Assembly, he’d support Schniederman’s measure because it looks out for both property owners who may fall behind on mortgages and also for homeowners who have to live next to our nearby a zombie property.
The city of Jamestown has also come out in support of Schneiderman’s zombie property bill, approving a motion of support in the summer.
Yochim and Goodell are the only two candidates that will appear on the ballot in this year’s 150th Assembly district election, which takes place next Tuesday, Nov. 4.