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County task force targets Zombie Homes

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Tianna Manon
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The Monroe County Vacant and Abandoned Property Task Force updated the community about their work, celebrating 2 years

So-called 'zombie homes,' houses that are vacant or abandoned,  continue to challenge local officials but at least one group is trying to mobilize the community to make a change. Monroe County’s Vacant and Abandoned Property Task Force gave its annual report Friday.

Leaders say they’re committed to changing policy, creating programs and engaging the community as a way to rehab abandoned homes in the city.

Fiona Wolfe, Co-Chair of the Task Force and staff attorney with Empire Justice Center says it’s important that the group provide more than recommendations. She says they want to create programs and opportunities for everyone to get involved and make the change.  

“As a task force, we want to be working on more than policy and have an impact beyond reports and recommendations,” Wolfe said. “While those aspects of our work are very important, like Adam (Monroe County Clerk Adam Bello) said, we also want to make a difference on the street and engage the local community.”

The SONYMA Spruce Up program is one of the ways they engage residents. Volunteers can team up to repair abandoned homes. The work may include fixing fences, the porch or front steps. It can also include power washing the home or installing flowerbeds.

“The Spruce Up is the perfect example of how the task force can add real value to our community. As with many things if you bring the right people together, with the right resources and the right ideas, good things can happen” said Wolfe.

The Task Force was also behind this past fall’s Home Fair, which served as a way to connect potential homebuyers with resources in the area.

“Last fall, the taskforce organized and hosted our first annual Home Fair,” said County Clerk and Task Force co-chair Adam Bello. “Community organizations, lenders, realtors, credit counselors, government agencies and other nonprofits were on hand to help hundreds of residents. Attendees had the opportunities to attend home buying and homeownership seminars and receive free housing counseling services.”

The next Home Fair is scheduled for October. Some other recommendations from the Task Force include: expanding Rochester Land Bank, work with lenders to encourage them to donate abandoned homes for repair and increase sharing of technical tools between municipalities. The full report can be read here.