BUFFALO, N.Y. – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stopped in Buffalo Thursday to announce a $10 million three-year initiative to create homeownership opportunities, make needed home repairs to prevent foreclosures, and fund a targeted zombie property prevention strategy for Buffalo’s East Side and the Town of Cheektowaga.
“The housing crisis is not new to Buffalo or to New York. It’s a national problem, and this problem of foreclosure and the mortgage crisis is obviously a national problem, but the good news is that help is on the way,” said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
The $10 million coming to the East Side and Cheektowaga is part of the Governor’s Billion to Buffalo II program. His vision is to mirror what he says the original Billion to Buffalo program did for the local industry.
“The Buffalo Billion jump starts the economy, but then General Motors comes in, then Geico comes in, then Sumo Kumho tires comes in, and it’s the private sector companies that do the growth. The same is true with housing,” said Mr. Cuomo.
An estimated 400 zombie homes dot neighborhoods throughout the Town of Cheektowaga. These vacant homes were the result of the foreclosure crisis and ultimately become a blight on the community by contributing to rodent infestations, high grass, and other safety issues.
“You stabilize the community, you stop the decline, you stabilize the market, and then private developers say this is a good investment I want to come in, I want to invest my money,” said Mr. Cuomo.
“I had tears in my eyes listening to him talk today because of the fact that this was one of my visions, and to have this happening so quickly in my term of office, I felt so privileged to be there,” said Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski.
During phase one of the program, Cheektowaga will benefit from a portion of $3 million aimed at helping families facing high maintenance and energy cost associated with owning an older home and to prevent foreclosures for nearly 250 families.
Under the governor’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, $1.02 million will be used keep families in their homes to prevent additional zombie homes. The State of New York Mortgage Agency will purchase the mortgages of 17 properties facing foreclosure on Buffalo’s East Side and in the Town of Cheektowaga.
The initiative will include one-on-one counseling with each mortgage holder and direct outreach with lenders to modify loans. Each modification could include reducing the amount owed by the homeowner and making necessary home repairs to address deferred maintenance.
If a homeowner cannot financially support a reduced mortgage or no longer wants to own a home, they will be offered resources and support to help the owner get a fresh start, while ensuring that the property is not abandoned, and is quickly repaired and resold to a new qualified buyer.
$2 million will be invested to directly assist families at elevated risk of losing their homes due to high costs of maintenance and energy usage. The Community Foundation of Buffalo, along with other local partner organizations, will create healthy, sustainable living environments for families by helping homeowners access weatherization, repair, and home health programs, including lead remediation, from multiple organizations through a single process.
How much of the announced monies will directly impact Cheektowaga has yet to be made available. The Town just learned about the initiative Thursday.
“He’s still in the driver’s seat. My staff will be in contact with the governor’s office to see where we go and we just have to wait and see,” said Ms. Benczkowski.
Not related to the governor’s announcement Thursday, the Supervisor did tell Cheektowaga Chronicle that the Town received confirmation that it was awarded a $250,000 grant to combat zombie homes.
“We were well over 400 vacant properties in the Town the last I checked,” said Supervisor Diane Benczkowski. “That’s a lot of zombie home properties that we need to fill and rehab for families to be able to move in.”
The grant will give the Town new tools to fight zombie properties.