BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Vacant homes can decrease property values, while attracting vandals and burglars. Now Buffalo officials are showing how city residents can fight for their neighborhoods.
The Common Council held a hearing Thursday night that felt more like a classroom lesson for financially-strapped homeowners struggling with bank foreclosures. Many are walking away from their piece of the American dream when they really don't have to, and end up facing serious legal issues.
Buffalo Housing Court Judge Patrick Carney told city residents that until the bank takes the property, they should remain there. Before the bank can take over a property, they have to appear in court.
"I've got foreclosures, somewhere between 700 and 1,000 houses, in Housing Court that are in foreclosure, active foreclosure, some of them as much as four years old," Judge Carney said.
They are in every neighborhood of Buffalo and one or two boarded up or abandoned homes can bring down an entire street.
Esterphine Greene of the Hamlin Park Taxpayers Association said, "It becomes extremely difficult for responsible homeowners to get or market a decent price for the sale of their homes because of this boarded up property within eyesight."
Masten District Council member Demone Smith held the hearing because many property owners in Buffalo simply don't know what happens when their property is foreclosed by a bank.
Until the bank actually takes title to the property, the homeowner is responsible for the upkeep and the code violations.
"They never foreclose on your property. So after years, people go in there and take out the pipes, take out the molding, stuff like that. The property becomes terrible, an eyesore, and then all of sudden, you get stopped, you've got a warrant for your arrest for Housing Court," Smith said.
So after a warrant is issued, even if the former homeowner has not lived in their house for years, they will be arrested.
If the home isn't demolished and goes through foreclosure, many times they get "flipped." Someone buys the property for pennies on the dollar, does some renovation and sells it for a big profit.
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