BY TRONE DOWD
Although a majority of the country has bounced back significantly since the economic turmoil of the recession in 2008, Council members Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) and I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) took to the Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson Community Garden in Jamaica Tuesday morning to once and for all address an issue so many Southeast Queens residents have come to accept as fact — the foreclosure crisis that never ended for minority communities all over the nation.
The City Council trio formally announced the Foreclosure Buyback Program, made specifically to prevent foreclosure, financially assist those in danger of being kicked out of their homes, and extinguish the effects of the “Zombie House” epidemic with the help of non-profits and investments from the city government. A total of $1 million has been allocated last fiscal year and for 2016 fiscal year for this purpose.
“Since 2008 many families around the country, especially in Southeast Queens, have been ravished and devastated by the foreclosure crisis,” Miller said. “Over the last two years there have been 27,000 foreclosures in the city of New York, one-third of which has occurred in Southeast Queens. The impact that has on neighboring homes is obvious as it is as devastating.”
With the Foreclosure Buyback Program, there will now be a concerted effort made by third parties to keep these long lasting issues that have taken money out of the pockets of homeowners, their neighbors and communities from persisting.
“We will now negotiate with the homeowners to try and keep them in their homes and make mortgages manageable,” Miller said. “When they are not there and that is not possible these homes will be restored by some of these local community non-profit groups and given back to the communities as affordable housing.”
Miller said that the value of homes near unkept foreclosed homes can plummet as much as 28 percent, and have rippling “effects on houses blocks away.”
The effort to address this problem stems from a public hearing held at York College just over a year ago. Residents in the community met with elected officials and non-profits to give perspective on their personal experiences facing this crisis. The non-profits included: Housing Preservation and Development, Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica, Inc., Center for NYC Neighborhoods, Neighborhood Restore Housing Development Fund Corporation, Mutual Housing Association of New York and the Brooklyn Legal Services helping with the legal hurdles homeowners often face. All of these organizations are now participants in the Foreclosure Buyback program. As of Tuesday morning, 24 homes had already been purchased and are a part of the program.
“This may have gone a little slower than most people would have liked,” Wills said. “But it’s because this is an effective initiative that is actually given us results. This will be a pathfinder model for cities across the nation.”
The program is the first of its kind in the country as Wills said. Other cities that have concerns about their housing markets including Seattle, San Francisco and Boston are looking to potentially apply this model spearheaded by Miller, Richards, Wills and Southeast Queens leaders like Community Board 12 District Manager Yvonne Reddick.
Wills expressed a desire to bring minority services into the fold to “help guard against anything like” the foreclosure crisis “from happening in the future,” as well as showcasing the successes of the program in order to increase the funding from an annual $1 million allocation to billions of dollars in allocation.
Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced legislation to mandate new “pre-foreclosure duties” requiring banks to maintain abandon homes for as long as they remain vacant or face significant fines.
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @theloniusly