Niagara Gazette

July 29, 2013

Falls officials hope cheap housing sales solidify neighborhoods

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Houses the city has taken through tax foreclosures will be available for next to nothing in the coming months.

The city’s Community Development department has announced that it will auction off three houses in mid September with bidding starting at $500 to purchasers willing to agree to conditions outlined in a contract.

The city is looking for people that want to live in the Falls for cheap and are willing to put some time and money into blighted properties, Seth Piccirillo, the director of the Community Development department, said.

“Anyone that wants to live in a home and rehab it in Niagara Falls, we want them to have that opportunity,” Piccirillo said.

Buyers will need to agree to live in the house for five years, submit proof of income and will be held to rehabilitation timelines. If the purchaser fails to comply with any of the terms outlined in the contract the property reverts to the city, Piccirillo said.

The auctions are the next step in a Community Development program called “Niagara Falls Open House” that aims to get city-owned real estate back in the hands of taxpaying residents. The program, which was announced in June, saw the first round of vacant city-owned lots sold to residents last week after the City Council approved the sales.

Community Development will also work to connect the people who purchase the houses from the city to federal programs that will help them successfully rehabilitate the homes.

“We’ll connect them with programs and let them know what’s available to them,” Piccirillo said.

The city will auction off three homes the first time around, a manageable number. If they have success with the first houses Piccirillo’s department would then look to expand the program, he said.

The houses will be on streets with many home owners and few vacant lots, he said.

“You don’t want somebody to rehabilitate a home that’s going to be surrounded by nothing,” Piccirillo said.

Mayor Paul Dyster said the program could help neighborhoods that are at the “tipping point” stay on the right track.

“All of a sudden that house that is being rehabbed, not only is that house looking better, but everyone in the neighborhood feels better about their property as well,” Dyster said. “I think it’s initially going to have a very positive symbolic value.”

The city will create revenue by putting the houses back on the tax roll, but it will also save on the cost of demolitions.

And the type of people that are willing to commit to rehabilitating a house in the city will likely be civic-minded, the mayor added.

“By definition these are people that are energetic and optimistic and want to be here,” Dyster said. “They are going to be very active in protecting the neighborhoods and improving them.”

With mug - NIA Piccirillo, Seth mug 072913

Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257