Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Banks Should Revive Homes Left for Dead

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Banks Should Revive Homes Left for Dead

Article excerpt

"Zombie foreclosures" is a catchy term, and I do like it, but it often doesn't quite make sense.

The phrase refers to houses that are neglected and empty while some bank is supposedly foreclosing on a long-defaulted mortgage but has stopped taking any legal steps to get the house or to have it sold at auction.

Taxes and homeowners association fees may go unpaid for years. Yardwork and maintenance have become a thing of the past. Those houses just get deader and deader.

So, I keep thinking, where is the zombie part? Where is the thing where the foreclosure or the house becomes undead and starts doing something?

An empty and untended house is more like an unburied corpse. Such a house, if really zombie-like, wouldn't just do nothing but grow mildew and weeds. It would animate somehow, showing some semblance of life, however gross or unpleasant.

But the zombie term would work well if applied only to houses where squatters or off-the-books renters move in. That brings the house back to life, sort of, albeit in a way that -- like actual zombies -- tends to be far more problematic than when the zombies were just dead.

Such homes sometimes make ideal meth labs or places to buy drugs or hang with hookers, for instance. Some also become places for kids and teens to break in and play and party, and for homeless people to crash.

Even with water and power off, the glow of candles and flashlights can soon give such places an almost-alive look. But a scary one, often, especially for people living next door.

And you can thank the banks!

Not local banks, as a rule, but some of the biggest and baddest ones in the nation -- Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase, for instance.

They give us the many hundreds of local dead and undead homes that make Southwest Florida a zombie nest.

So I agree with the quote that Herald-Tribune reporter Josh Salman got from Circuit Judge Lee Haworth, who knows the situation well. …

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