State Comptroller Says Despite Improvements, Foreclosure Crisis Not Over in New York State

Real Estate In-Depth | March 2019

ALBANY—New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report earlier this month that showed foreclosures in New York State are on the decline and court filings are in nearly 50% below near peak levels posted six years ago.

Mortgage foreclosure filings across New York dropped 46% between 2013 and 2018, from 46,696 to 25,334, according to the DiNapoli report, which was a follow-up to a report on the state’s foreclosure crisis released in 2016.

Most areas of the state have experienced substantial improvement over the past four years. As of mid-2018, only four counties—Clinton, Putnam, Rockland and Suffolk—had foreclosure rates of more than 1%, while 38 counties and three of New York City’s five boroughs had rates below 0.50%. The western part of the state continues to have generally lower rates than counties in the east, the report stated.

Since 2013, relative to the rest of the state, foreclosure rates have been highest in the Long Island and the Mid-Hudson regions.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli

“The decline in foreclosures means fewer people are losing their homes and our municipalities are seeing some relief from the collateral damage associated with shrinking tax bases and neglected properties,” DiNapoli said.

He added, “While this is an improvement, the foreclosure crisis is far from over. To extend the progress we’ve made, New York must continue to support the programs and reforms that have helped homeowners avoid foreclosure and communities reduce blight caused by zombie properties.”

Nearly five years ago (mid-2014) the statewide foreclosure caseload was near its peak. At that time, 18 counties had foreclosure rates greater than 1% and four had a rate more than 2%.

All of the downstate counties outside of New York City had a foreclosure rate of 1% or more in mid-2014, the report stated, Two of New York City’s boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens, had rates of 1.0% and 1.4%, respectively. Only two counties—Schuyler and Tompkins—and the borough of Manhattan had a foreclosure rate below 0.25%.

Four years later (end of 2018), most areas of the state had experienced substantial improvement. Since at least 2013, Suffolk County has had the highest foreclosure rate in the state. Suffolk’s foreclosure rate peaked in 2016 at more than 3%, before falling to 1.7% by mid-2018. Nassau County, which also had a high foreclosure rate, saw a sharp drop, falling from 2.6% at the beginning of 2016 to 0.75% by the middle of 2017. Since then, however, Nassau’s rate has leveled off, the DiNapoli report stated.

The report also chronicled a host of mortgage foreclosure reforms in the court system that helped spark a deep reduction in foreclosure-related caseloads in the state judicial system. In 2013, foreclosure cases represented a third of the New York State Supreme Court civil caseload. By 2018, they made up fewer than one in five cases (18%).

DiNapoli’s report also noted that some progress has been made on the zombie property front, but noted that more work needs to be done.

The State Comptroller in his concluding remarks in the report, stated, “Thoughtful process improvements along with mechanisms for clearing the foreclosure backlog appear to be having an impact. Improved communication among the many stakeholders and better data are making a difference as well. These efforts are yielding results, but the challenge is ongoing. Tackling the negative effects of abandoned properties requires sustained focus, coordination and resources by state and local stakeholders to achieve enduring progress.”