Niagara Gazette

January 23, 2014

Vacant Falls home sold for $2,650 as part of new rehabilitation initiative

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Artina Deakyne is one step closer to becoming a homeowner.

The city planning board has recommended that the city council approve the sale of a vacant Memorial Parkway house to Deakyne as part of a new initiative from the city’s community development department aimed at putting tax-foreclosed properties back on the tax rolls.

Deakyne said she is excited to move forward with the restoration of the Memorial Parkway house.

“That house is an arts and crafts style house,” Deakyne said. “It still has most of the original woodwork, fixtures ... and it would be a real shame for it to just be demolished.”

Deakyne will pay $2,650 for the house and Mikelly Construction has estimated that rehabilitation will cost $70,000.

Community Development has determined that Deakyne qualifies for a $40,000 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development deferred home loan.

Deakyne said she realizes the risks associated with investing so much time and money into a house in a neighborhood that has seen home values fall in recent decades.

The block is lined with well-kept historic houses and has a strong block club which gives Deakyne confidence that the future of the neighborhood will be bright, she added.

“Really a lot of it is a forward view,” she said. “I’m hoping that within 10 years that’ll be the place to be in downtown Niagara Falls.”

Deakyne is required to live in the house for at least five years, submit a rehabilitation plan to community development and repair all code violations within one year of the date of sale as part of her agreement with community development.

Deakyne was one of three Niagara Falls residents to win an auction for a vacant, city-owned house this September, part of a larger effort to get vacant properties back on the tax rolls dubbed “Niagara Falls Open House” by community development.

The city began selling vacant lots at a discounted rate to adjacent homeowners this summer and has been working with a local nonprofit, the Isaiah 61 Project, to rehabilitate vacant, city-owned homes.

Seth Piccirillo, the director of community development, said the block, which has seen two dilapidated houses demolished this summer and has a house that is being eyed by the Isaiah 61 Project, is on the brink of stability in a part of town where neighborhoods can deteriorate quickly.

Selling the house to Deakyne will further ensure that stability, he added.

“It puts the house back on the tax roll, it prevents another government-funded demolition and it puts a homeowner on the street,” Piccirillo said.

Piccirillo said he expects the next house sold at the September auction to be in front of the planning board in a few weeks.

“Hopefully, in the future, we can have multiple going on at one time,” he said.

Rick Smith, the planning board chairman, said he was concerned that city inspectors were not asked to go through the houses prior to the auction, but that Piccirillo has agreed to have a full violation list available to bidders in the future.

“All the inspections and everything should be done before the property goes to auction so the people bidding on the property have a chance to see exactly what it’s going to entail to bring it back,” Smith said.

Smith feels anything that can be done to get vacant properties out of the hands of the city is a good thing, so long as the standards set by community development and the planning board are followed, he said.

“Anything that puts a property back on the tax rolls and we don’t have to demolish it, I’m all for it,” Smith said.

Standing in city council chambers after the planning board meeting, Deakyne, the potential Memorial Parkway homeowner, said she is excited by the idea of walking to the Seneca Niagara Gaming Complex, Niagara Falls State Park and downtown restaurants from her front door.

“I’ll be in the perfect place to do that,” she said.

Deakyne said she sometimes feels overwhelmed by the challenge that rehabilitating the old house poses.

“It’s probably the largest project I’ve taken on of this nature,” she said.

But Deakyne knows that she won’t be alone in the task.

“I’m pretty handy so there’s a lot of work that I can do, you know, myself,” she said. “I also have the support of a lot of friends and family who are willing to help, so that eases some of that burden.”

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