Long Island town explores solutions for 'zombie' homes

More than 500 vacant properties, so-called zombie homes, can be found in neighborhoods across the Town of Hempstead. As that crisis continues to escalate, state and local officials have secured a $215,000 grant designed to take a closer look at the community's housing needs.

"Many families are being priced out of their communities who are suffering from housing instability," Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said. "They don't know how they're going to make their next mortgage payment."

Zombie homes are created when homeowners go into foreclosure and move out, leaving the home abandoned and falling into disrepair.

Not only do zombie homes become eyesores in the community but they also cause neighboring property values to plummet.

State Sen. Kevin Thomas, a Democrat who represents central Nassau County, can attest to that.

"When I was out campaigning, knocking on doors, I could see the zombie homes," he said. "I could see those houses all boarded up."

We visited a zombie home on Webb Avenue that was abandoned three years ago. The inside is filled with mold and rotting floorboards. And just down the block, FOX 5 NY found yet another zombie home.

Housing-assistance programs, like Habitat for Humanity, plan to partner with the Town of Hempstead to convert the vacant properties into affordable housing for new homeowners and low-income families. The demand for affordable housing has skyrocketed, according to Myrnissa Stone-Sumair, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity Nassau County.

"I have over 65 people that have applied over the past year," Stone-Sumair said. "Right now, I've had to put receiving any new applications on hold… because the number of persons that have applied is overwhelming."

Officials hope to hit the ground running within the next year.