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Erie County Clerk says he is addressing tax zombie properties

More than 13,000 properties in Erie County are at least $500 behind on their county taxes.

TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. — The Erie County Clerk released a report Thursday showing more than 13,000 properties in the county that are at least $500 behind on their county taxes.

Many of the homes and businesses are considered tax zombies. They are empty, in need of maintenance, and several years behind on their taxes.

Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns released a tax delinquency report Thursday showing thousands of property owners behind on their county taxes to the tune of a total of $112 million.

One home on Hurst Court in the Town of Tonawanda is owned by an LLC, and it owes about $17,000 in back taxes and interest. While that home is empty, there are also homes on the list that still have people living in them.

Kearns and Kate Lockhart, the Vacant and Abandoned Property Program Director with the Western New York Law Center, are not advocating for removing people from their homes. They want to prevent that.

They would like to see the county start a payment plan option before properties go into foreclosure. They are also suggesting American Rescue Plan Funds be used to address an 18-percent interest penalty set back in the early 80s.

"Since the pandemic started, what has the trend been with properties like this seeing more of them? Seeing fewer of them?" 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik asked.

"So it's been pretty consistent, but one of the things is there's no place for people to go right now, right?" Kate Lockhart said. "So if you leave your house, where do you go? You double up with someone else, you live with family.

"So we haven't seen an increase yet in foreclosures, but what we do see is an increase in delinquencies, and what our concern is, the county charges 18 percent on back taxes, and so that very quickly increases and can push people to a place where they won't be able to get current and will ultimately have to leave the home."

More than 8,600 of the properties on the list are 1-3 family residences.