; Adam Bello, County Executive

The Monroe County Vacant and Abandoned Property Task Force

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October 13, 2016 - Monroe County Task Force on Vacant and Abandoned Properties Issues Report

The Monroe County Task Force on Vacant and Abandoned Properties, co-chaired by Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello and Rebecca Caico, Senior Attorney at the Empire Justice Center, issued its initial report at a press conference this morning.

“I am proud of the report we put together and am very thankful to the task force members and residents who donated their time and energy to this important project,” said County Clerk Adam Bello. “We have a number of outstanding individuals working on this issue in our community. Our Task Force has brought people together and has resulted in changes that will help make a difference. ”

The task force, made up of community members, municipal leaders and various representatives from the housing field, began its work on April 14, 2016 and has had:

  • 14 planning meetings
  • 3 meetings of the full task force
  • 5 task force sub-group meetings
  • 12 meetings with various stakeholders, including town supervisors and community groups
  • 1 Facebook Live forum sharing the task force presentation and seeking public input that was viewed by over 1,000 people
  • 2 public forums that were attended by over 100 residents

“Our report has made a number of recommendations on actions that can be taken that will move the needle in a positive direction,” added Task Force co-chair Rebecca Caico. “This report is the first step in our attempt to address vacant and abandoned properties. Our next step is working towards the implementation of these recommendations.”

The recommendations include:

  • Seek continued funding for foreclosure prevention services, including legal services and housing counseling.
  • Advocate that low-value homes at risk of becoming vacant or abandoned should be excluded from HUD’s and FHFA’s loan sales programs, and encourage HUD and FHFA to establish a separate process for these properties that includes working with the Rochester Land Bank and local non-profits to preserve these homes as affordable housing.
  • Advocate for public reporting by HUD and FHFA of loan sales outcome data relating to the conduct of private buyers.
  • Advocate for changes to HUD and FHFA loan sales programs so that investors are required to provide affordable loan modifications that include principal reduction or arrearage forgiveness
  • Work with the New York State Department of Financial Services to design and implement the new statewide Vacant and Abandoned Property Registry.
  • Assist municipalities in effectively accessing and utilizing the information that will be available through the new statewide Vacant and Abandoned Property Registry.
  • Increase the sharing of technical abilities and database tools among the City of Rochester, the County Clerk’s Office and other municipalities.
  • Explore the viability of municipalities denying permits to property owners with delinquent taxes, municipal claims or serious code violations.
  • Municipalities should explore the ability, benefits and disadvantages of prequalifying bidders for tax foreclosure sale.
  • Expand the Rochester Land Bank to include all municipalities within Monroe County.
  • Encourage the return of vacant housing to community-controlled institutions like community land trusts for rehabilitation.
  • Seek participation from all municipalities in the Neighborhood Revitalization Grant Program.
  • Continue the work of the Task Force and seek funding to expand its scope and outreach.

“We have made some important changes already, particularly in how we gather and share information related to vacant properties and the foreclosure process, but the work on this issue is really only beginning with this report,” said County Clerk Bello. “Our report outlines an ambitious agenda and work plan for the task force’s members over the coming months, and I look forward to working with all levels of government, community organizations and concerned citizens to implement them.”

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