NATIONAL PARK — It’s not a problem that’s particular to National Park, and Mayor Mark Cooper suspects towns are dealing with similar issues across the country.
When the housing bubble burst in 2008, it led to mass foreclosures throughout the United States, including tens of thousands of foreclosure filings in New Jersey. However, five years later, many of those homes remain empty and are suffering from neglect, becoming neighborhood blights and safety hazards.
“Our main problem is residents complaining that the empty house next to theirs has grass that’s never being cut, they’re falling apart or in disrepair, or kids are getting into them and partying there,” said Cooper. “There’s no electricity in them, they’re dark and they’re fire hazards when people use them as shelters.
“And you try to get in touch with the banks or the mortgage companies that now hold the properties to take responsibility for them, they just laugh at you — well, they don’t literally laugh, but it’s like pulling teeth. You just can’t get in touch with anybody.”
Within the one-square-mile borough, National Park Property Maintenance Officer Ele Hagerty can think of at least 20 foreclosed, blighted properties off the top of her head.
“Unless I drove around all day everyday, I wouldn’t be able to keep track of all of them in my head,” she said.
She can see three such properties from her own bedroom window.
“The snow on the property piles up, the mail piles up and they’re magnets for kids who break in,” said Hagerty. “Many times, I get a number for someone with the bank, or mortgage company, but actually getting in touch with them is another story.”
Hagerty explained it once took her three days of work to track down the mortgage holder on one specific property three years ago.
“After three days, the bank tells me the home is still technically the responsibility of the resident, because the foreclosure process was still going on,” she said. “The place eventually burned down when kids lit a fire in there.”
If you think this is exactly how the world should be, ignore the link to the petition below.