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An abandoned home on Walnut Avenue in Oaklyn suffered major damage when a tree was uprooted during a recent storm. A seven-town study on abandoned properties in Camden County reveals the steps governments must take to address a nationwide problem. In June, seven Camden County communities announced a joint partnership to address the increasing number of abandoned and foreclosed properties on their streets. Under the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act, which allows municipalities to “commence and maintain proceedings for the conservation, protection, or disposal of property,” the towns of Audubon, Collingswood, Haddonfield, Haddon Township, Oaklyn, Pennsauken, and Camden City’s Fairview section have recruited Rutgers University graduate students to gather data on the problem before taking action. The study is expected to take the length of the summer to complete; with varying contributions from all towns, it should cost no more than $8,000. If their findings have an impact, it would be a remarkably small price to pay to unearth the roots of a problem that has festered for the better part of a decade, robbing homeowners of thousands of dollars in diminished property values, and dedicating extra labor to the upkeep of these homes.
According to a Bloomberg report, New Jersy passed Florida as the national leader in mortgage foreclosures in 2014.
There are more than 5,200 Camden County homes currently in foreclosure, according to Renwood RealtyTrac. Throughout the state, 10 percent of all homes are vacant, the service reports.

More than 8 percent of all mortgages in the state are at some stage of foreclosure, a process that can take as long as three years to complete, NJ Spotlight notes.
When it isn’t cleaned up, such a house can become an eyesore that runs down the neighborhood.
In 2012, the Center for Responsible Lending estimated that as much as $2 trillion in lost property values has been absorbed by areas in which homes are heavily foreclosed, and disproportionately by communities of color. Maley said abandoned properties are a problem that local governments are forced to consider because the real estate market hasn’t.
Maley estimates the number of affected properties in Collingswood at nearly 80; that figure may approach 700 throughout the territory covered by the study. In 2013, Richmond, California was poised to use eminent domain to buy up a number of properties that were worth less than the amount for which their mortgages had been written.
Collingswood already operates a Property Maintenance Task Force intended to address homes and buildings that have fallen into disrepair, he said; however, those efforts weren’t resolving the underlying issues.
Maley hopes that the information gathered by the researchers will help local officials develop a clearer picture of property owners’ needs.

Haddonfield Mayor Jeffrey Kasko estimates there are 12 to 15 properties in his community that could be covered by the agreement. Kasko hopes that the results of the study will allow the municipalities to get a better handle on the problem, including reaching out to the banks that may hold some of these properties. Haddon Township Mayor Randy Teague said that in addition to lowering values of the other homes in the neighborhood, abandoned and neglected properties require the township to assign its workers to their upkeep. Until a new owner can take possession of the property, the upkeep on such places can fall to the municipality to absorb. That case hasn’t yet been tested, but in recent months, both Irvington and Newark, NJ have considered a similar tack in order to keep properties occupied.

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