08.08.18

WITH OVER 2,000 ZOMBIE HOMES PLAGUING ROCHESTER, SCHUMER CALLS ON FEDS TO IMMEDIATELY APPROVE CITY’S PLAN TO COMBAT ZOMBIE HOMES; SENATOR SAYS ABANDONED HOMES HURT PROPERTY VALUES & ARE MAJOR EYE SORES IN ROCHESTER COMMUNITY

Despite Over 2,000 Zombie Houses Across Rochester Community Driving Down Property Values By Millions, Senator Says HUD Is Dragging Its Feet On Renewing Vital Approval Needed by City of Rochester To Get Rid Of Zombie Houses

Since 2003, City Has Rehabbed 750 Zombie Houses, Many Acquired Through HUD Agreement; HUD Routinely Renewed Prior 2-Year Agreements, But Has So Far Failed To Act Since Latest Agreement Expired In February

Schumer To HUD: Give Rochester Immediate Approval To Combat Zombie Houses Now Sucking The Life Out Of Rochester Neighborhoods

Standing in front of a recently renovated zombie home in Rochester, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to immediately approve the City of Rochester’s Asset Control Area Renewal Agreement (ACA), giving 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 to first-time homebuyers.

“With over two thousand zombie homes plaguing the Rochester region, HUD must stop moving at zombie pace and immediately approve Rochester’s antidote to turn these zombie homes back into family homes,” said Senator Schumer. “Towns throughout Monroe County are struggling to get rid of these zombie houses, once foreclosed on - often becoming havens for problems that drag down neighborhoods. But with a strategy in place, HUD needs to wake up to prevent this zombie home apocalypse from sucking the life from Rochester’s neighborhoods.”

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, renovates and sells these former zombie houses to new first-time homebuyers. 

Today, Schumer stood with local officials at one of these 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 by swiftly approving the new Asset Control Area renewal agreement with the City of Rochester. HUD has routinely renewed prior 2-year agreements, but has so far failed to act since the latest agreement expired in February, more than six months ago, forcing the City to stall projects as it continues to wait for the approval of this agreement. 

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 he is now pushing for would be 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 can 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. While HUD has routinely approved the City of Rochester’s previous two-year renewals to coincide with the prior agreement’s expiration, the current renewal submitted earlier this year and anticipated for approval in February 2018, has not been acted on by HUD for several months.  Schumer said these more than 6 months of delay by HUD are threatening the City of Rochester’s continued efforts to address these vacant zombie properties to improve neighborhoods and safeguard property value for local residents.  Currently, the City of Rochester is being forced to stall projects, as it continues to wait for the approval of this agreement.

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.

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.

“I want to thank Sen. Schumer for his forceful advocacy in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the citizens of Rochester,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren. “The Asset Control Area Agreement is a vital component of our efforts to bring new investment to city neighborhoods by restoring zombie properties for first-time homebuyers, and it is deeply troubling that this important program has been allowed to falter. I am grateful that Senator Schumer is giving his personal attention to a program that helps us create more jobs, safer and vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities for our citizens.”

“Through the Asset Control Area (ACA) Program, HUD facilitates the elimination of zombie properties in Rochester by partnering with the City of Rochester and the HOME Rochester Program to transform vacant properties into quality, affordable homeownership opportunities for individuals and families.  In Rochester, the ACA Agreement supports a model program that stabilizes neighborhoods and families.  Our partnership with HUD and the City has been very successful as evidenced by hundreds of ACA homes rehabbed for first-time homebuyers through HOME Rochester.  We look forward to continuing to address HUD’s inventory of foreclosed properties through timely renewal of the ACA Agreement by HUD,” said Theodora Finn, President of the Greater Rochester Housing Partnership. 

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.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson appears below:

I write to request the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) prioritize and swiftly approve the City of Rochester’s, Asset Control Area (ACA) two-year renewal agreement with HUD.  Over the past fifteen years, the City of Rochester in New York has effectively used the ACA program as a major tool to remove hundreds of vacant zombie properties, that would otherwise plague neighborhoods, by acquiring these houses. And then – through its HOME Rochester program, administered by the Greater Rochester Housing Partnership renovating and selling them to first-time homebuyers.  While HUD has routinely approved the City of Rochester’s previous two-year renewals to coincide with the prior agreement’s expiration, the current renewal submitted earlier this year, and anticipated for approval in February 2018, has not been acted on by HUD for several months.

The ACA program, created over twenty years ago under Section 204 of the National Housing Act, promotes the revitalization of designated communities and expands 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.  Since 2003, the City of Rochester has rehabilitated over 750 vacant and often dilapidated foreclosed homes in local neighborhoods to sell to first-time homebuyers through the City’s HOME Rochester program.  The HOME Rochester Program acquired many 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.

The City of Rochester’s continued efforts to address these vacant properties to improve neighborhoods and safeguard property value for local residents will be hampered by any further delay in approving their renewal agreement with HUD.  Currently, the City of Rochester is being forced to stall projects, as it continues to wait for the approval of this agreement. I strongly support the City of Rochester’s renewal agreement and urge HUD to expeditiously approve this agreement without further delay.  I appreciate your assistance with this matter.

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