The ‘Neighborhood Foreclosure A.L.E.R.T. Program’- short for Accessing Lis Pendens Data for Erie County and Reporting to Town, Cities, and Villages is a collaborative effort to preserve neighborhoods and prevent foreclosures countywide. Through the A.L.E.R.T. Program, the Office of Erie County Clerk Michael P. Kearns notifies Erie County municipalities when a foreclosure has commenced in one of their neighborhoods via a lis pendens filing. This allows local governments to identify pockets of homeowners struggling and prevent possible ‘zombie’ homes, vacant or abandoned properties that have not reached the end of the foreclosure process. With the assistance of the Western New York Law Center, homeowners have an opportunity to try to work out a resolution with the bank, allowing them to keep their homes.
Columbia Law School Project
The Columbia Law School Project is a partnership between the Office of Erie County Clerk Michael P. Kearns, the Western New York Law Center, and Columbia Law School in New York City. It is the first partnership of its kind, applying the skillset and knowledge of the law students to provide additional support, resources, and information to smaller municipalities otherwise overwhelmed by the complicated process of identifying parties responsible for maintaining zombie properties. Working with Columbia Law School, municipal officials can submit a request on a zombie property through a website specifically designed for this project. Students will then access data provided through the Erie County Clerk’s Office to conduct research and report back to municipal officials on pending foreclosure information. Columbia Law students are able to count the time spent researching for municipalities toward their mandatory 40-hour pro bono requirement, which law students must fulfill to graduate.