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Combating a housing crisis in Nassau County

State, county officials address zombie homes


The Long Island State Senate majority and Town Supervisor Laura Gillen have announced a $215,000 grant to study and address the Island’s shortage of affordable housing. The funding will explore how the Town of Hempstead can keep people in their homes.

“This study is an important step to make sure the next generation of families is able to remain in the Town of Hempstead,” Sen. Kevin Thomas said at a news conference on April 24. “The Town of Hempstead has several hundred zombie homes, and foreclosure is causing property values to plummet. That’s a wakeup call to rehabilitate homes and create new ones.”

Cay Fatima, of West Hempstead, lives near two zombie homes. There are over 500 zombie homes in the town, along with roughly 1,500 households in foreclosure. “A lot of the vacant homes in the community have become an eyesore,” she said. “Both Sen. [Todd] Kaminsky and Senator Thomas are progressive enough to know that something needs to be done.”

“We need to shed light on the availability and quality of affordable housing in the Town of Hempstead,” Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach who represents Malverne and West Hempstead, said in a statement. “I was proud to fight alongside my Long Island colleagues to secure funding for an in-depth study in the budget, as it will allow us to enact truly effective solutions to a serious crisis facing the community.”

Gillen said that many families on Long Island struggle to make their monthly mortgage payment, and deal with housing instability. She also said that Long Island has not recovered from the housing market collapse a decade ago.

“The tide of foreclosure has battered many of our communities,” Gillen said. “On top of that, homeowners are feeling the pressure even more today due to tax policies that include capping deduction on state and local taxes.”

The median home value in the town is just over $400,000 — 40 percent higher than everywhere else in the state, and double the median value for the rest of the country, according to Gillen. “Zombie homes are a scourge that exist across the entire town in every community,” she said. “This study is needed to properly identify more housing opportunities to help people.”

The research will be conducted in a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Nassau County, a nonprofit that helps people build and improve homes. The organization acquires and repairs zombie homes, and then sells them to families who have steady incomes.

“We’re so happy to be a part of something that’s going to help and benefit the entire county and the Town of Hempstead,” said Myrnissa Stone-Sumair, executive director of Habitat for Humanity’s Nassau County chapter. “We’ll continue to make new partners with each and every area of Nassau County.”