BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–Buffalo’s annual Property Tax Foreclosure Sale is underway, but to the amazement of many city officials, there are fewer than 370 delinquent properties on this year’s auction block.
Assessment and Taxation Commissioner Jason Shell said there were more than 4,200 parcels on the list for “In Rem 53” at the start of October, but city lawyers made a concerted effort to get tax debtors into the city’s Foreclosure Assistance Program.
Shell said the outreach paid off for more than 800 property owners, “This means that people are either paying, or they are taking advantage of our payment plans. We’ve had over 800 people come in and do payment plans through the city, which is right along with our goal.”
In years past, a Buffalo homeowner could lose their property due to unpaid property taxes, user fees, or unpaid water bills but any surplus left over after the taxes were paid would automatically go to the homeowner to help them start over.
That practice ended with In Rem 53, but Shell said homeowners would still have access to surplus funds, “Our goal is not to push people out of their homes, it is to assist people in entering into payment plans, or paying their bills.”
Common Council members had been opposed to the policy change regarding the surplus funds, but Council President Darius Pridgen said the Council is satisfied with the way the auction is being handled.
“I think this is so important for the public to know that if you lost your house at auction, and there is a surplus, you have the right to apply to receive a portion of that surplus back to you. It will not go to the City of Buffalo.”
The city’s annual Tax Foreclosure Auction started Tuesday morning, with many of the parcels on the auction block unsold from prior year auctions.
More valuable parcels are supposed to be up for sale when the tax sale continues through Wednesday, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.