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In-Rem Auction Round Up: Hamlin Park Edition

The annual In-Rem foreclosure auction in the City of Buffalo took place last week and many homes and buildings in Buffalo found new owners among the bidders. I decided to take a closer look at the Hamlin Park Neighborhood to see how it fared compared to the rest of the city. The complete list for the city can be seen by clicking here.

Two weeks prior to the auction, there were close to 95 properties within the Hamlin Park boundaries that were on the chopping block. That’s just over 6% of all the homes in the district, which doesn’t sound like a big deal. However, that amount was above average when compared to the average for the whole city of Buffalo, about 5%.

Thankfully, the majority of the properties were redeemed by their owners before auction, leaving only 26 properties and 3 vacant lots up for grabs (1.8%). It’s going to be interesting to see what these homes look like a year from now. My hope is that most of them will be owner occupied and well maintained, but we’ll have to wait and see.

For those who don’t know, Hamlin Park is a strong and dense east side neighborhood located directly behind Canisius College. The boundaries for the area are Main Street to the north, Humboldt Parkway to the east, East Ferry Street to the south and Jefferson Avenue to the west. Within these boundaries there are approximately 1550 properties that make up the district. Hamlin Park is currently a local historic district, but is up for consideration early next year as a National Register Historic District.

A local historic district is great for a neighborhood, but does not offer the same kind of financial benefits in the form of tax credits that National Register historic district can offer. The designation generally helps to stabilize home values and is often done in response to a threat to the neighborhood. Hamlin Park was designated a local historic district in part because Canisius College was considering buying up properties for demolition in order to expand their campus footprint. However, local historic districts provide protection
for homeowners that a National Register district does not. The local
designation has more “teeth” than the national designation because material changes
to buildings within that district must go before the Preservation Board for
approval. That means if you restore your home to its original grandeur, you
likely don’t have to worry about your neighbor putting on an unsightly addition
or glassblocking all their windows or generally ruining property values with poor design changes.

A National Register historic district typically offers more incentives. Those who own a contributing historic home are eligible for historic tax credits (20% of the total project cost) in a similar way big developers use them for rehabbing large structures like the Hotel Lafayette.

In order to be eligible for the program the home must owner-occupied, contribute to the district, and be located in a Federal Census Tract that is at or below the state family median income level. That describes most of Hamlin Park. The project must have a qualifying rehabilitation costs that exceed $5,000, at least 5% must be spent on the exterior, and the work must be approved by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

For example, let’s say I want in on the program and need the following: a new roof, a professional repaint of the exterior, repair of existing wood windows, restoration of deteriorated porch elements, and updated mechanical systems. All of that work would generally qualify. We’ll assume the total project cost is $30,000 and if all the work qualifies, I would be earning $6,000 in tax credits. The proposed work would be described on a pretty simple application that goes to SHPO for their use and review to qualify for the program.

The credit is taken in the year in which SHPO approves the completed work. If the allowable credit exceeds an owner’s income tax for the year and the adjusted gross income is under $60,000, the excess will be treated as an overpayment of tax to be credited or refunded. For applicants with Household Adjusted Gross
Incomes over $60,000 in the year the credit is claimed, the following fees

Part 2 Fee: An initial fee of $25 shall be
included with Part 2 of application. Checks should be made payable to the New
York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP)
and should have the address of the property and “homeowner tax
credit” in the memo section. 
Part 3 Fee: The following fee should be submitted
with Part 3 of the application:

Cost: $5,000 to $9,999, Fee: $25

Cost: $10,000 to $49,999, Fee: $75

Cost: $50,000 to $99,999, Fee: $175

Cost: $100,000 to $149,000, Fee: $275

Cost: $150,000 to $199,999, Fee: $375

Cost: $200,000 to $250,000+, Fee: $475

It’s a win-win no matter how you look at it. The neighborhood continues to get improvements while the historic character of the area is retained. Homeowners get some economic benefits for participating in the program and maintaining the historic appearance of their home. Those who want to rehabilitate their homes, but not be “restricted” by the Standards, can do whatever they please and would only be subject to the local Preservation Board review, which is already the case. Just because you have a home in the district does not mean that you automatically have to participate, you can decide to opt in or out.

For current photos of the 29 properties in Hamlin Park that got new owners, check out this set on my Flickr page. It also includes the sale price of each home

188 Northland ($16,000)

188 Northland Avenue was a steal at $16,000

1559 Jefferson ($3,500)

1559 Jefferson sold for less than $4,000 and likely includes the back building

185 Florida ($11,000)

185 Florida sits on a nice double lot

46 Pleasant ($16,000)

46 Pleasant was one of the more unique properties in the auction

24 Pleasant ($18,000)

24 Pleasant seems to be one of the best bargains in the neighborhood. Great condition for just $18k

Written by Mike Puma

Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

View All Articles by Mike Puma
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  • batmankh

    Lotta yuck right there. On the bright side, they can only be improved upon! We hope.

  • Up and coming

    Absolute steals!

  • Prospero

    “Hamlin Park was designated a local historic district in part because Canisius College was considering buying up properties for demolition in order to expand their campus footprint.”
    Of course it was… Can’t have one of the best colleges in the region expanding into a blighted, deteriorating neighborhood. Especially considering the negative impact Canisus has had on its other immediately surrounding neighborhoods. Funny how UB and ECC are criticized for building out in Amherst instead of in the city, but who can blame them with the amount of BS anyone has to wade through to make any meaningful progress in Buffalo.

  • Mike Puma

    I’m sorry have you ever spent any time in Hamlin Park besides the occasional drive? It is far from blighted and deteriorated. It is one of the most intact and stable east side neighborhoods. The residents are friendly and care deeply about their neighborhood. The majority of the homes are well maintained and the community is very strong.
    If someone dropped you on any given road (with your back to the expressway) you would think you were in North Buffalo or Kenmore. Point me to one other east side neighborhood that is this intact, this safe, this well maintained, and has a strong community within it.

  • Up and coming

    I have three friends that lived off campus while attending Canisius. And all three have told me how ghetto the housing is one you get a block or two east of main st. Also, judging by the six percent vacancy rate the above article stated, i’d say their right.

  • Mike Puma

    That is not what that percentage means. Did you even read past the first two paragraphs? 6% was in reference to the amount of homes that were on the In-Rem foreclosure list before the date of the auction. That percentage dropped to less than 2% by the time the auction rolled around. The list went from about 95 properties down to 29 in Hamlin Park.

  • BufHky

    Even if 6% was the actual vacancy rate, taking into consideration the fact that a majority of census tracts on the East Side have a vacancy rate well over 15%, I’d say Hamlin Park is doing quite well.

  • LouisTully

    You’ve never been over in that part? You spout off like a firehose of knowledge and you’ve never even been in the Hamlin Park area or the neighborhoods surrounding Canisius? And now you’re referencing some college kids that lived in what was likely a dilapidated college party house that surrounded the school. I lived at 62 Eastwood and it was a dump, and probably still is. The worst homes in that area are owned by slumlords and rented to college kids who trash the homes.

  • batmankh

    The Hamlin Park Taxpayers Association treats Canisius like the enemy more often than it recognizes that their Public Safety officers are the reason their crime rate is so low.
    If they’re so upset about slumlords then they should go after them themselves.

  • CindyLee

    What’s more the inside of the homes are magnificent…. oak, beveled glass,!

  • Up and coming

    Louise, I since some serious hard feelings here? Also, I’ve been in that neighborhood on more than a couple of occasions and the housing right behind the campus is solid. But, the more and more you head east, the worse the neighborhoods become. Also, I agree with your point that colleges kids do little to increase property values, but in the same breath a lot of property owners do less than their fair share, too. Take a stroll over to Grider, or Northland and take a look at how much trash is sitting in peoples front lawnes, or how many people have neglected their landscaping and have overgrown trees or shrubs. It’s not a pretty sight.

  • Up and coming

    The “well it could be a lot worse” logic doesn’t make this neighborhood any better.

  • Mike Puma

    The east boundary of Hamlin Park is Humboldt Parkway. The area you are speaking of is far outside the neighborhood.

  • boozehound

    I lived at 62 Eastwood too.

  • BufHky

    I never said it did. I was simply refuting the fact that by bringing up the 6% vacancy rate you were some how supporting your “ghetto housing” hypothesis, when neighborhoods in North Buffalo have vacancy rates hovering around 5%.

  • Travelrrr

    I thought Canisius had implemented a program helping its professors buy in this neighborhood. No?

  • Prospero

    An above-average foreclosure rate? Hmm.. Please, go on about how the neighborhood isn’t deteriorating. Now, I have nothing against preserving the character of Buffalo’s neighborhoods and seeking to rehabilitate worthy homes. What does annoy me is the constant struggle Buffalo has with itself whenever leaders in our community attempt to clear away rot in preparation for real progress. See: above, canal house, et al. I love history, but I also love seeing Buffalo prosper and I can only imagine what a great organization like Canisius could bring if they could only grow out while keeping close to their existing footprint, instead of being relegated to leasing classroom space out on Maple Rd. in AMHERST or having to sacrifice their own green space in their quad to build much needed student housing.

  • Travelrrr
  • chetroia

    When my family came from italy they lived on eastwood I think in the early 60’s before the sqajaqudea was built my grandmother always tells me storys how that area was a huge italian immigrant neighborhood. One problem I see are some of the houses in the city that dont have driveway parking dosent think make it hard to sell a house and make it less attractive to buy?

  • Up and coming

    And by far away you mean less than a quarter mile?

  • Mike Puma

    It WAS above average when compared to the rest of the city BEFORE the date of the auction starting. By the time the auction rolled around it was WELL BELOW average when compared to the rest of the city. It’s not uncommon even in “better” parts of the city to have an area that is higher than the average before the actual date of the auction starting. People wait until the last minute to avoid foreclosure.
    City Average: 5%
    Hamlin Park two weeks before auction: 6%
    Hamlin Park day of auction: 1.8%
    I’m not sure I can make it much clearer.

  • BuffaloEmigrant

    They should just wait until Medaille closes down and acquire their dorms and property. That school is going nowhere fast, terribly managed and hemmeraging money. I would know.

  • BufHky

    If Canisius wants to expand beyond their existing footprint look no further than Main Street between Delavan and Ferry. That section is one of the last few stretches of Main Street I would consider “dead.” There are plenty of vacant buildings/parcels that I’m sure Canisius could scoop up. Seems like they’ve already started down that path:
    Why demolish one of the most intact, density populated residential neighborhoods on the East Side, when you could expand down Main Street, reinforce the knowledge corridor, and begin to bridge the gap between downtown?

  • Publius

    Hamlin Park is a solid neighborhood. It remains an example of how lower-income neighborhoods, adjacent to blighted areas, can remain strong through keeping a good housing stock intact and having community members active and participating.

  • grad94

    i don’t understand the sniping. no neighborhood is perfect and no neighborhood is worthless. bad things happen in “good” neighborhoods all the time. good things happen in “bad” neighborhoods all the time.
    no one is forcing you to live or buy in hamlin park, nor is anyone forcing you to read an article that you have no interest in. what is so terrible about people buying houses there?

  • paulsobo

    I agree with Grad95
    Hamlin Park has its positive merits.
    I have no suggestions on how to improve Hamlin Park except to ask if the various neighborhood watches, historic district members and other community groups could band together and propose a plan that would stabilize the neighborhood, expand the historic district and increase property values through preservation and restoration.
    Others have suggested opening up the Scajaquada Creek since Hamlin Park covered it over.
    Id like to hear what others think would help the neighborhood

  • EAHS 1972

    If Canisius is ever to expand, it would be best to buy all the houses on Eastwood and Glendale places, between Main Street and the Humboldt Parkway, north of campus, or on Loring and Hughes, west of campus out to the parkway.
    There are already a number of vacant lots in that area, according to Google Earth.
    The addresses shown in the photos are not directly adjacent to campus.
    Of course, if Canisius had the money it would be better to find 100 vacant acres within the city, build a brand=-new campus that isn’t so landlocked, and sell the old campus off to a developer.
    And, to get back to original premis of this story, those are houses that seem to be in decent condition for a very attractive price. As someone who lives on the West Coast, houses of that size for less than $20 K is unfathomable.

  • whatever

    BufHky is correct that 6% wouldn’t be a high vacancy rate in context.
    Within the Main-Humboldt-Ferry-Jefferson bounds said in Mike’s article, most of Hamlin Park is in tract 33.01 south of Delavan. Vacancy there is between 15 and 20% according to FixBuffalo blog May 2010
    Most surrounding tracts have higher rates – between 20 and 25% to south and west (darker orange on map), between 25 and 30% to west (red).
    Less vacancy closer to Canisius in the more north part of Hamlin Park, north of Delavan.
    5 to 10% vacancy there it says (tract 52.02 in yellow), so a 6% rate would be in that range even though the 6% in article was referring to foreclosure rate which is a separate thing.

  • Linksfiend

    I ran a BatchGeo on the “Bidder Acquired” properties on the InRem Results List

  • armyof100clowns

    With all of the jib-jab on this neighborhood – does anyone know the status of the Lyth Cottage rehab?

  • Travelrrr

    This neighborhood could really use a re-tree effort.

  • Mike Puma

    Indeed I do. Expect a post soon 🙂

  • armyof100clowns

    Awesome – I look forward to it!
    For years I admired this home (even got chased away by the police in ’08 while taking photos) and was so pleased that it found its way into the capable hands of someone who seemed as enamored with it as much as I.

  • pfk67

    What does adjourned and struck to city mean?

  • Prospero

    That still doesn’t sound like a “healthy” neighborhood. Instead of last-minute foreclosure avoidance, why not give these people options? Development in the area may increase home values, give people a chance to sell, grow their equity or move into a rental property that might be more appropriate to their income/economic situation. Decrease the housing stock and establish a more mixed-use community. Instead the community will probably languish. We’ve seen how Buffalo has no shortage of slum lords willing to buy up the cheap property and let it fall into further disrepair. If I’m wrong and Hamlin Park turns into the next Allen/Elmwood village in the next ten years, I’ll eat my hat. Without development like was mentioned, I doubt it.

  • brownteeth

    I think I drove by it a week or two ago on my way home from Buffalo Reuse. If it was the right place it looked great!

  • Mike Puma

    It means the property now belongs to the City of Buffalo.

  • Jefferson Humboldt

    Adjourned – no bids, previous owner retains.
    Struck to City – City now owns it.
    493 properties were Struck to the City this year alone…

  • Jefferson Humboldt

    Nice. Can you do one with Struck to the City? I only counted them but didn’t pay too much attention to the addresses.

  • Jefferson Humboldt

    I go past almost daily. It really looks good compared to a year ago.

  • hawkeyemaps

    I finally got around to mapping the 2012 auction results – by winning bid and also property type (lot or building) for the city of Buffalo, including the Hamlin Park neighborhood:

  • benfranklin

    Nice work. A similar map pre-auction with street view enabled might make you a couple bucks.

  • LouisTully

    agree with ben.
    Any west-siders know what the deal is with the SE corner of West/Maryland? A lone house stands surrounded by a few football fields of vacant lots. Only thing I ever heard about it is a developer’s trying to scoop it all up to put something; lone house won’t sell. Anyone?