With Over 2,000 Zombie Houses Across Rochester Community Driving Down Property Values By Millions, The Department Of Housing And Urban Development Has Now Approved An Agreement With Rochester To Give The City The Right To Purchase And Rehabilitate The Homes 

Schumer Says New Agreement Provides Rochester With The Ability To Reduce Amount Of Vacated Zombie Homes, Gives First-Time Homeowners Ability To Purchase Property At Reduced Cost 

Schumer: New Agreement Will Let Rochester Tackle Its Zombie Home Epidemic 

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced today that following his push, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has heeded his call, and approved the City of Rochester’s Asset Control Area (ACA) renewal agreement. The new agreement will give the city the right to acquire vacant zombie homes that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has previously foreclosed on, in order to rehabilitate and sell them to first-time homebuyers. Schumer said the ACA renewal will help Rochester fight the plague of abandoned, or “zombie” homes, which both reduce the value of property in the city and are major eyesores.

“While the City of Rochester is plagued by over 2,000 zombie homes, HUD’s renewal of the ACA is a major step in the right direction that will allow the city to turn those zombie homes into family homes,” said Senator Schumer. “The agreement will help address this zombie home epidemic by giving Rochester the right to purchase foreclosed-on homes at a cheap cost, refurbish them, and sell them to first-time homebuyers. I’m proud to have supported the City of Rochester in their efforts to renew their ACA, and will always fight to see that Rochester is the most livable and welcoming city that it can be.”

Over the past fifteen years, the City of Rochester has effectively used the ACA program as a major tool to remove over seven hundred vacant zombie properties that would otherwise be plaguing neighborhoods. According to the City of Rochester, there are now 2,162 vacant properties in the City. Once these houses are acquired, the City of Rochester, through its HOME Rochester program, administered by the Greater Rochester Housing Partnership, will renovate and sell these former zombie houses to new first-time homebuyers. 

Earlier this month, Schumer stood with local officials at one of the zombie homes, which is now under contract to a first-time homebuyer at 228 Albemarle Street, to announce his push to call on HUD to end months of delay and swiftly approve the new Asset Control Area renewal agreement with the City of Rochester. Today, Schumer announced that HUD recently approved the ACA, giving Rochester the right to purchase foreclosed-on houses and quell their zombie home problem.

Schumer cited reports by the Monroe County Vacant and Abandoned Task Force, co-chaired by Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello, which estimated there are as many as 1000 vacant and abandoned houses — otherwise known as "zombie" homes — throughout Monroe County and over 2,100 within the City of Rochester, leading to a loss of as much as $11 million in decreased value to surrounding homes.  At the same time, estimates are that Monroe County needs 28,000 more affordable housing units to meet the needs of residents. Schumer explained the federal Asset Control Area renewal agreement that HUD just approved is a win-win-win to help Rochester area communities remove vacant zombie homes that become havens for problems, put houses back on the tax rolls, and provide quality housing for first-time homebuyers. In fact, it is estimated that these rehabbed houses could boost neighboring property values by $15,000. 

HUD’s ACA program was created over twenty years ago under Section 204 of the National Housing Act, to promote the revitalization of designated communities and to expand homeownership. Through the program, foreclosed properties conveyed back to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) are first offered for sale to an ACA participant, such as the City of Rochester. Under the ACA Program, state, county and local units of government, as well as approved nonprofit organizations may enter into a two-year contract with HUD requiring HUD to first make FHA properties located in an ACA exclusively available for sale to the ACA participant – in this case the City of Rochester. 

Specifically through the HOME Rochester program, the City of Rochester uses and leverages its annual federal housing block grant funding (HOME Investment Partnerships Program funding) to hire local contractors to renovate and rehab these former zombie properties and then sell them to new income-qualified homebuyers, providing a beautiful, affordable home for a family to own and live in for the long term. HOME Rochester homebuyers are required to occupy their home for 15 years. HOME Rochester strengthens City neighborhoods by providing dedicated homeowners who feel invested in their community for the long term.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I am that HUD officials have finally signed the two-year renewal for the ACA agreement,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren. “I want to thank Senator Schumer for bringing this matter to the forefront, and for making HUD aware of how important the ACA agreement is to our community. Now we can move forward with eliminating zombie houses and problem properties as we continue our efforts to create safer and more vibrant neighborhoods, more jobs and better educational opportunities for our residents.”

Theodora Finn, President of the Greater Rochester Housing Partnership said, “HUD’s quick response to our community’s call to renew and execute the Asset Control Area Agreement is commendable.  The Greater Rochester Housing Partnership and Rochester Housing Development Fund Corporation will maintain our strong partnership with the City of Rochester and HUD to address the debilitating impact zombie properties have in Rochester neighborhoods.  Through HOME Rochester, we will continue to transform ACA properties into affordable homes for low and moderate income buyers who may not otherwise be able to partake in the opportunity of homeownership.” 

Since 2003, the City of Rochester has rehabilitated over 750 vacant and often dilapidated foreclosed homes to sell to first-time homebuyers through the City’s HOME Rochester program in virtually every neighborhood and corner of the city from the South Wedge and Swillburg, to North Winton, Driving Park, Maplewood, and the 19th Ward.  The HOME Rochester Program City acquired most of these homes through the ACA program, as well as through other sources, including the Rochester Land Bank Corporation and National Community Stabilization Trust. In fact since 2015, 40 vacant properties have been acquired through the HUD Agreement, of which 29 properties were rehabbed and have been sold or are under contract with first-time homebuyers, and 11 are under construction.

Finally, in addition to increasing property values by ridding neighborhoods of zombie houses, Schumer said the Asset Control Area agreement helps generate further economic development by creating new jobs for local contractors. A study by the HOME Rochester program in 2010 revealed that $33.5 million was awarded to local contractors to restore these formerly vacant foreclosed properties. This created good-paying jobs for the local contractors, all of whom were based in Monroe County, and many of whom are minority- or women-owned small businesses.


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