Banks Abandoning Newark Properties

Almost 43 percent of bank-owned properties in one Newark neighborhood remain vacant, even years after foreclosure, according to a new study.

On a day when the city auctioned off 80 abandoned properties, the large number of vacant foreclosures “really jumped out” at researchers as they walked the Upper Clinton Hill neighborhood and studied property records, Linda Fisher, a Seton Hall University professor, told a Newark City Council committee hearing.

“We’ve heard a lot about homeowners walking away in the middle of foreclosures” rather than continuing to make mortgage payments, Fisher said. “Well, these are bank walkaways.”

A new report finds vacant, boarded-up units can become a pernicious problem, as they are a drag on the city’s finances, with extra costs including fighting fires, police actions, trash removal and social-services issues, such as dealing with squatters and vagrants. They also further depress property values.

Foreclosures have added $56 million to such expenses in a five-year period in which the city’s average tax bills have risen by almost 50 percent, said Carol Meyers, a researcher for the Service Employees International Union.