KENMORE, N.Y. (WIVB) – The burned out shell of an abandoned house sat for nearly 6 years on Allegany Avenue in Kenmore, a so-called “zombie home”—hard to sell because of legal complications involving the bank and the former homeowners.
Neighbors such as Hope Harle-Mould said the house stood out like a sore thumb among the neatly maintained houses on Allegany Avenue, “It was just very ugly, and stray animals would go there, and parts of the house would actually fall off in windstorms.”
The road to financial purgatory started with a fire, on July 14, 2011–a backyard cookout that somehow got out of control–and gutted the two-story house. A short time later, the homeowners—after receiving the proceeds from their homeowners insurance–walked away from the house, and the mortgage, and the fire-damaged property went into foreclosure.
From 2012 until 2015, the “zombie” home just sat that there, until the bank donated the property to the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation, known simply as the Land Bank, which converted the eyesore in less than a year.
BENLIC Executive Director Jocelyn Gordon predicts the new and improved house will soon become a neighborhood asset, “to have a jewel like that on a block like this in Kenmore, we anticipate this house will sell, pretty much, immediately.”
State lawmakers created land banks for urban centers across New York to take control of once valuable properties that have fallen on hard times, and make them productive again. Gordon said the Buffalo-Erie-Niagara Land Bank spent close to $110,000 on improvements to the Kenmore property, adding a fourth bedroom and a second bath.
A host of local officials held a ribbon-cutting for the newly improved property, Tuesday afternoon, in preparation for putting the house back on the market.
“This is exactly the type of property that we want to see,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, “in a good neighborhood, a productive neighborhood, that needed a little tender loving care.”
Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick, whose district includes Kenmore, also praised the transformation, “No one wanted to live near a property like this. Now everyone would be glad to not only live in it, but live next to it. So it raises up the whole neighborhood.”
Harle-Mould is very happy with the way the Land Bank has turned the property around, “Huge improvement. I am glad someone will enjoy it soon.”
The money for the New York land banks’ projects comes from a settlement Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reached with several big banks over their questionable foreclosure practices, but officials say BENLIC’s projects have become self-sufficient, and they seem to be turning a small profit for the corporation.