Zombie homes invading the suburbs


TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Homeowners in Buffalo’s suburbs are discovering vacant abandoned houses, known as “zombie property” aren’t just a city problem anymore.

Tonawanda property owners say zombie homes are bringing down their property values, and Monday night, they demanded the town board do something about three of them.

It is called zombie property, because it is unoccupied and there isn’t much you can do with it. Because of legal complications, such as foreclosure or liens, the property can’t be sold or demolished, so it just sits empty and decaying.

A dilapidated house on Delaware Rd. was one of three in the Town of Tonawanda, residents took to the town board, demanding action. The second property was on Edgewood Ave., and the third was the eyesore on Harrison Rd., with remnants of a blue tarp covering the roof.

Rosemary Carriero lives next door to the house on Harrison Road, and says the zombie looks so bad, it is bringing down property values in the neighborhood, ” It’s just a disaster. It’s deplorable.”

Carriero and some of her neighbors were among the townsfolk, Monday night, telling town officials to do something about the zombies.

The blue tarp has been covering a hole in the roof so long, it has disintegrated, and Rosemary says it is even worse on the inside.

“It should be knocked down, if not, it is going to fall down before it gets knocked down. The walls are bulging, there is mold inside, the grounds are a disaster–everything–rats galore running around.”

Tonawanda’s Supervising Code Enforcement Officer Carl Heimiller has inspected the three properties in question, declared all of them “unsafe”, and suspects the town might have to demolish at least two of them, including the house on Harrison Rd.

“There is a hole in the roof, and there are two roof rafters that are compromised–they have cracks in them. I don’t think the house is in immediate danger of collapse, but it is one that has to be dealt with.”

Heimiller said the bank foreclosed on the house on Harrison, and if nothing is done to shore up the walls, which are visibly buckling, they might have to start drawing up specifications to demolish it.

But the eyesore on Delaware Rd., at the intersection with Zimmerman Blvd., has a long story behind it. Back in May, the SPCA and police raided the house, removing 27 dogs, and several dead animals.

The property is in foreclosure, and the owner is years behind in back taxes. Those complications are why properties like these are known as zombies, and why Heimiller said resolving the legal issues is a long drawn out process.

“We have to first determine which bank even holds the mortgage on it. Because typically, it might be a local bank that gives the owner a mortgage, but sometimes these get sold off several times to other banks.”

The third zombie house brought up at Monday night’s meeting, on Edgewood Avenue, is boarded up, and Heimiller said, it is in such bad shape, the town is making plans to demolish it–no doubt a relief to neighbors.

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