N.J. towns band together to sell off abandoned, foreclosed homes

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 An abandoned home mars an otherwise tidy suburban street in Collingswood, N.J. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

An abandoned home mars an otherwise tidy suburban street in Collingswood, N.J. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Officials in a handful of Camden County towns think they may have a solution for the boarded-up facades blighting their neighborhoods blocks.

Abandoned and foreclosed homes have become more commonplace across the country in the years after the Great Recession.

But officials in a handful of Camden County towns think they may have a solution for the boarded-up facades blighting their neighborhoods blocks.

Collingswood, Audubon, Pennsauken, Oaklyn, Haddonfield, Haddon Township and the Fairview section of Camden are collaborating on a pilot program, with the help of three graduate students from Rutgers-Camden.

The idea is to make it worth the bank’s while to sell abandoned and foreclosed homes by bundling a few dozen of them together, increasing the bank’s profit margin to a higher level than if it were selling only one or two properties.

For example, a bank may not care too much about a foreclosed home with a $100,000 mortgage, but 15 or 30 $100,000 mortgages would add up to quite a lot.

Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley is already working on his pitch to the banks.

“Here are 25 properties in these three towns. And we want to work with you to get them back into use. We’ll help you market them, we’ll offer some incentives. We want you to offer some incentives. We’ll make the price realistic,” Maley said. “And we want to get this so we can get them back on the rolls.”

Banks would be able to multiply their money, and towns could unload several abandoned properties at once.

The six towns estimate that among them there are more than 500 abandoned or foreclosed properties, which can go from beautiful to blighted in a matter of months.

“It affects the fabric of the community, as well as the physical [appearance] affecting the property values in the area, the look of it. It’s a little demoralizing to see that there’s properties that are empty,” Maley said.

“You need that life, you need a family in there, you need that community life that keeps the neighborhoods what they are.”

Right now, the three graduate students are analyzing municipal data to identify abandoned and foreclosed homes in the area.

Maley said he hopes to be negotiating with banks in three to four months.

If the program succeeds, it could be recreated anywhere in the country, he said.

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