Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich announces that the Town of Greece applied for and has been awarded a $175,000 grant to combat and maintain zombie properties within the town. The Grant provided by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a not for profit, is one of the largest organizations across the county supporting projects to revitalize communities. The grant will provide necessary funding to continue on the Town’s already aggressive approach when dealing with vacant and abandoned properties.
On April 18, 2016, Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich and the Greece Town Board adopted the toughest ordinance in the area to deal with the issue of vacant and abandoned properties, commonly referred to as Zombie properties. That ordinance established a registry whereby the Town receives notice of vacant properties and useful contact and property maintenance information that has served as a valuable tool to our code enforcement team. The ordinance further requires banks or lenders who commence a foreclosure proceeding in the Town to give prompt notice and provide a cash bond or letter of credit in the amount of $10,000 to secure the continued maintenance and safety of the property. To date, the Town has received nearly $2,000,000 in cash bonds and letters of credit, which has served as incentive for lenders to bring quick resolution to any property maintenance issues. Lastly, the ordinance created increased penalties for owners of vacant and abandoned structures that are repeatedly noncompliant with the existing property maintenance code.
Following adoption of this ordinance the Town of Greece contracted with Community Champions, a third party company that creates and maintains this vacant property registry at no cost to the Town or its taxpayers. The revenue collected by this company is simply a percentage of the administrative registration fee charged to banks and lenders upon registration.
Since this vacant property ordinance was adopted, communities from across the area and throughout New York State began reaching out to the Town of Greece expressing interest and seeking information. In response, Supervisor Bill Reilich hosted a Zombie Property Forum on June 1, 2016 with 40 local community leaders from nearly all of Monroe County’s towns, villages and the city of Rochester, as well as local code enforcement personnel from the Town of Cheektowaga and Erie County. At the meeting, the Town of Greece shared the details of the recently adopted local law and highlighted the necessary tools needed for municipal code enforcement departments to address and enforce existing property maintenance codes.
“Since passing our own aggressive Zombie Property law earlier this year, the Town has seen early successes with the proper maintenance and care of abandoned homes within our town. While our effort is strong, we continue to find new sources of funding that support our effort to combat zombie properties. The 175k grant from Local Initiatives Support Corporation is a great addition to our already strong zombie property initiative and will aid in the continued efforts to properly maintain these neglected structures and turn them over to potential buyers in the future.” said Supervisor Reilich.
In addition to strict code enforcement on properties throughout the town; Supervisor Reilich instituted dedicated court time to deal with property maintenance issues. Greece Administrative Judge David Michael Barry oversees this court which typically deals with over 100 cases each month. This is another method the town has put in place to insure that properties that fail to meet our code standards are dealt with in a timely manner.
The grant received from LISC will go towards necessary funding within the towns already stalwart Zombie Property initiative. The overall grant will go towards the hiring of additional code enforcement officer, a foreclosure prevention service that helps at risk residents who are facing foreclosure of their home to help find ways to keep them in their homes, as well as outreach initiatives to help educate Greece residents on what to do to report a problem with a Zombie property and directing any at-risk residents to work with the foreclosure prevention services. Supervisor Reilich believes that this three pronged approach of increased compliance, counseling and education will have a significant and lasting impact on the problem of Zombie homes in our town.