What does it all mean?
Neighborhoods across Long Island are battling an epidemic of blighted, abandoned houses as municipalities spend millions of tax dollars trying to maintain structures that fester with rats, mold, weeds and squatters.
Long Island communities are littered with empty, neglected homes — from small Cape Cod-style houses in Levittown, America’s first suburb, to large Colonials in upscale Hamptons communities.
The abandoned houses ruin the quality of life for neighbors, threaten public safety and send property values plummeting.
What had been a nuisance in some municipalities intensified with the financial and housing crisis of the late 2000s when thousands of homes went into New York’s nearly three-year-long foreclosure process, creating what have become known as “zombie houses.” Those homes, with no owner on site and no one taking care of the property, are neither alive nor dead.
The size and scope of the abandoned-home scourge is growing so fast that it challenges municipal efforts to keep up with it. The birthplace of suburban life and one of the most expensive places to live in the United States, Long Island now has homes with manicured lawns and meticulously maintained facades sitting side by side with foot-high grass and plywood-covered windows.
And the crisis is worsening.
A yearlong Newsday analysis, using data from municipalities and RealtyTrac, a national real estate tracking company, found:
- Suffolk County had 2,084 zombie homes and Nassau had 1,960 as of Jan. 31, ranking them seventh and ninth highest respectively among 2,165 counties in the United States, the most recent figures available.
- Suffolk and Nassau are the top counties in New York State for zombie homes.
- Long Island has the top five ZIP codes in the state for number of zombie homes.
- Local municipalities last year spent at least $3.2 million to clean, maintain, board up and demolish homes in disrepair, including zombie properties.
- Zombie houses have cost Long Island at least $295 million in depreciated home values, according to a real estate appraiser’s analysis.
Long Island “is one of, if not the epicenter of zombie properties in the state of New York,” state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman told Newsday. “This is a huge problem on Long Island.”
Back in July, our friends over at Elmont Online shared an exclusive investigation about squatters in Elmont. Find out more details on the story here: http://elmont.org/news-mainmenu-2/1-latest/22709-a-proxy-for-squatting.html.