Zombie Houses - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1982284

Zombie Houses

Can someone now explain to me what happened to 752 Hamilton Avenue in Hampton West Estates? This property was part of the Northern Sites development that the town purchased as an affordable housing program in the late 1990s. A local family were lottery winners and moved in, and everything was fine.

Fast-forward to 2015. As time went on, the owner refinanced a number of times, only to eventually default, and left the property. The house stood vacant.

In December 2018, The Southampton Press carried a front-page story of how the town’s Housing and Community Development Department had bought the house in a short sale. The property would be restored and placed back in the affordable housing program.

For three years I assumed this was the case, but as time passed, virtually nothing was done to the property. This past winter, I noticed that some vandalism had occurred, so I contacted the town — only to find out that despite the December 2018 announcement, the town did not own the property. The Suffolk County clerk’s office listed the original developer as the owner; the town’s website listed the owner as the former owner.

Vandalism occurred over the winter, as someone broke into the unsecured premises and trashed the place, knocking holes in the wall. In the last two weeks, someone broke in through an open window and graffitied the walls.

A once-viable affordable property is now a zombie house. For six years, it stood relatively intact, awaiting upgrading, and now is uninhabitable. For years, there were no locks, no sealed windows, no security whatsoever.

I do not know who is responsible for this, but, clearly, the bank, the former owner and the town share responsibility.

I raise this now as the town is preparing to put forward an affordable housing funding revenue stream to be voted upon this fall. Overall, the project has merit, as everyone knows affordable housing is a real problem.

Part of their proposal is to acquire zombie houses and rehab them, and that by itself is a worthwhile pursuit. But the fate of 752 Hamilton implies that doing this is not so simple, and if this one didn’t work, how can the town handle scores of these zombie properties?

Easier said than done.

Forest Markowitz

Westhampton Beach