Opinion sig

My name is Bridgette Myles. I am a resident of the city of Niagara Falls. I have lived here all my life. I grew up in Center Court and am now a resident of the Hope VI Beloved Community. I am a single parent of three boys. I have also worked diligently in this city for 25 years, dedicating the last seven years as a city employee.

I have always taught my children specific life rules by which I have lived: depend on no one but God, education is a must, work hard, stay out of trouble and respect everyone. I told my sons to set goals for yourself and strive hard to accomplish them.

Recently, I tried to accomplish my dream of becoming a homeowner here in Niagara Falls. I wanted my sons to grow up here in the city in which I was raised. I not only wanted to break the cycle of not owning my own home, I also wanted to have something to pass down to my children.

I am now learning that my dream has been dismantled. As a result, we feel as if we accomplished nothing.

Through the encouragement and support of Councilman Kenny Tompkins, I attended the Niagara Falls Community Development Homeownership Auction on April 14. With the help of my friend and auction coach, Bill Carroll by my side, I was the successful bidder for 204 60th St. I could not have done this without them. I was ecstatic, overjoyed, as well as nervous. I could feel weight being lifted off of my shoulders. I DID IT! It was a sigh of relief. I felt like I was finally breaking the cycle and would now be able help my family members as well as neighbors in the community accomplish the same dream through what I thought was the perfect housing program.

I followed the proper steps and did everything I was supposed to as I started the process of becoming a homeowner.

Then I met with Community Development staff and discovered that my file was on hold because they were not able to gain access to the inside of the home to conduct an inspection. A couple of weeks later, I contacted Richard Zucco, assistant corporation counsel to determine the current status. Zucco told me he was not going to evict an elderly woman for a city employee. He stated that this property should have never been auctioned off, the woman only owed $6,000. He even added that there was no judge that will agree to evict her. Zucco said he would get back to me.

On May 12, I received an email from Zucco that stated the following:

Bridgette, just to let you know, the planning board recommended approval of your sale (and the other homeownership auction sales) last night. We will be looking at the eviction if the house is still occupied after June 1. Once we know that we can deliver the vacant/vacated house to you, we will proceed with processing your sale.

On June 1, I received an update from Zucco that stated the following:

Bridgette, the council approved the sale last night. I filed the eviction papers to day. The eviction hearing is June 14. I will keep you posted on our efforts to get possession of the house so we can complete the sale.

It was not until after the auction that I became aware that the person and/or family was living in the home. I just prayed that God would place them in a safe and affordable home or apartment and that things would work out for their family as well as my family.

On June 13, one day before the scheduled hearing, Zucco emailed me the following:

Bridgette, the eviction has been adjourned to give (prior owner) a chance to pay the taxes. Her son is trying to get funds together. I’ll keep you posted.

As I was scheduled to meet with Community Development staff the following day regarding the renovation grant, I forwarded a copy of Zucco’s email to Seth Piccirillo, cirector of Community Development, to see if I needed to cancel my appointment that was scheduled for June 14. I was instructed by Piccirillo to maintain my appointment.

I did so, only to now be advised that I am not eligible for the renovation grant because my children receive a small portion of survivor’s benefits from their late father. I was told that income guidelines are determined by the gross 12 coming months of income.

This entire experience made me question the Niagara Falls Community Development Homeownership Auction program and who is it truly designed to benefit. Based on my experience, it does not appear to be for hard-working individuals who wish to live their dreams of becoming homeowners.

The city needs and wants first-time home buyers, why not create a strategy that is transparent, fair, and implemented with consistency?

Bridgett Myles is a resident of Niagara Falls.