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State program aims to reduce 'zombie property' glut

State program aims to reduce 'zombie property' glut

New York is expanding its Neighborhood Revitalization Program into Schenectady County
State program aims to reduce 'zombie property' glut
State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas talks Thursday about the Neighborhood Revitalization Program.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY — A state homebuyer assistance program is expanding into Schenectady County, with the goal of addressing a glut of vacant properties.

State and city officials said Thursday that low- to moderate-income residents can now get additional assistance to purchase and fix up empty homes — otherwise known as “zombie properties" — through the state Neighborhood Revitalization Program.

The program offers assistance with down payments and up to $20,000 in renovation assistance. It is funded with $22 million from a settlement with JPMorgan Chase and is sponsored by the State of New York Mortgage Agency’s RemodelNY Purchase Renovation Mortgage Program. 

The state program provides a low-interest loan program in addition to the down payment assistance, which provides $3,000 or 3 percent — whichever is higher — of the cost to purchase a home, as well as up to $15,000 in renovation funds.

The state program will work in tandem with the city’s Home Ownership Made Easy in Schenectady (HOMES) program, which offers funding assistance for first-time homebuyers who purchase vacant homes in the city. It also works with banks that offer renovation loans.

RuthAnne Visnauskas, state Homes and Community Renewal commissioner, said the state program will serve two purposes: It will help to remove eyesores from the community, and it will give people a chance to buy homes. 

“We want people to see their neighborhood retaining value,” Visnauskas said.

Councilman John Polimeni said many city and county residents would be eligible under the state program.

According to the state, a one- or two-person household with a shared income of less than $124,650, and households with three or more people with a combined income no greater than $143,340, would qualify for the new assistance program.

Polimeni said the median household income in Schenectady is between $36,000 and $37,000, while the median household income in the county is $66,000 to $67,000.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said vacant properties have become “a burden," and a lot of city resources are dedicated to getting them back on the tax rolls.

“It’s a challenging effort,” McCarthy said during a news conference to announce the new program Thursday. “It’s something that we try and do every day, and it continues to draw a lot of resources from the city.”

There are approximately 300 vacant city-owned properties, according to city Homeownership Coordinator Matthew Smith. Most of them are located in the Mont Pleasant and Hamilton Hill neighborhoods, as well as the central State Street area, according to McCarthy.

Residents will have a chance to view some of the vacant properties during the first citywide open house event of the year on Sunday, between noon and 4 p.m. A listing of featured homes will be available in the Capital Region Real Estate section of the Sunday edition of The Daily Gazette.

For more information about the state Neighborhood Revitalization Program, visit nyshcr.org and type "neighborhood revitalization program" into the search field.

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