BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Dozens of foreclosed homes are about to hit the auction block, and this year Erie County is trying out a new concept called "land banking," a joint city-county agency invests in property that no one else will buy and improves it for the purpose of residential or commercial development.
Governor Andrew Cuomo just signed a measure on Monday, making it possible.
Back in May, neighbors Called 4 Action over an old dilapidated house with overgrown vegetation and weeds on Fowler Avenue in Tonawanda. Residents were concerned because they were keeping up their properties, and the eyesore could drag property values down.
Erie County had foreclosed on the property for back taxes, so the owner and his son moved out, even though they had a legal right to stay.
Now the Fowler Avenue property is on the county's In Rem list and set to be auctioned off. But with nearly $55,000 in taxes owed, the county plans to try something new: buy the property and "land bank" it.
Joe Maciejewski, Director of Erie County Real Property Tax Services, explained, "We will immediately stabilize that parcel, prepare it for winter, and then we will begin the process of rehabilitation of the property."
Maciejewski says there are about 80 properties set for auction from the In Rem list, from the house on Fowler to a four-bedroom, four-bath home in the upscale Spaulding Lake sub-division of Clarence. Theoretically, you could the property in Clarence for the back taxes - about $100,000. But the reality is, with the house valued at about a half million dollars, that is not likely to happen.
Once the successful bidder wins the property, Maciejewski says all other liens would be removed, including the mortgage.
"The banks get notified up front, and if they choose to let the property go, then they are just going to wipe that off their books," Maciejewski said.
Earlier this year, there were about 150 properties on the In Rem list. But Maciejewski says the county has raised about $3 million from property owners getting caught up on their taxes, which has whittled the list down to about 80.
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