Updated 09/24/2012 06:50 PM
Mayors come together to tackle urban blight
Like many urban communities, Capital Region cities are struggling with the blighting effect of vacant, neglected homes. But as our Lori Chung reports, local leaders are teaming up to help homeowners hold on to their properties with a little help from the federal government.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- "There's no question that if we're going to make sustained improvement in these areas, it's going to take all of these folks working together," said Maurice Jones, Deputy Secretary of HUD.
It is a coalition, of sorts, hoping to tackle the growing glut of empty, homes and the blight it attracts to urban neighborhoods, bringing the mayors of Albany, Schenectady and Troy to the table, with a little help from HUD.
"Vacant properties are the prerequisite for a lot of bad stuff," said Jones.
Issues like crime, squatting and fire hazards.
In a forum to discuss housing issues and legislation to ease the burden on struggling homeowners, Jones learned from the leaders of Capital Region cities that foreclosures and the rising inventory of vacant stock top their concerns.
"I'm looking at over 500 boarded up buildings [and] vacant buildings, they're the priority, how do we flip those, how do we get people that are responsible in those properties to be homeowners," said Albany mayor Jerry Jennings.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development says it will take a broad approach that includes action from Congress to help more homeowners qualify for refinancing and an effort to rebrand the cities with an inviting image for prospective buyers. In Schenectady, where there are about 600 vacant homes, Mayor Gary McCarthy says attracting buyers who want to live in the homes and not just rent them out, will help sow the seeds of stability in the market.
"Cities are viewed differently than our suburban neighbors and we have to get that message out there that there is opportunity there is value to moving into urban areas," said McCarthy.
Officials say they're hopeful about pending legislation to make it easier for homeowner to rebuild equity in their homes in addition to refinancing initiatives. For now, they say the forum help to open a dialogue with HUD, and allowed the agency to direct them to different programs to help the local housing market in the interim.