We’ve posted on the City’s property auctions plenty of times. The property auction is a great way for someone to pick up a property, and it’s also a great way for the City to unload properties that it can’t take care of. The property auctions should be a win-win for Buffalo, but there’s a problem. Many of the properties are purchased by out of town interests that don’t have the better good of the city in mind. Instead, these properties are purchased as investments. In many cases, the out-of-state owners either become slumlords, or they simply play the waiting game. Neither of these scenarios is good for the city. Not only is it not good for the properties, it also prevents local homeowners from acquiring the properties and fixing them up.
“I know Buffalo residents who have purchased their first home from the City Auction for $5,000 and $10,000,” said Ahmad Nieves who is a community activist and founder of Buffalo Information Sharing Collective (BISC). “Over the years, they have been able to rehab these homes and begin the process of becoming financially stable. If they were to start that same process today, many of them would not be able to do it. This is, in part, because of the big money interests and the higher prices we are seeing at the auction in recent years. The American story is one of opportunity and overcoming. That’s what I want for WNY and the auction – increased opportunity and well-worn paths towards home ownership and financial stability.
Here’s the action plan that is based on two requests:
Western New Yorkers Bid First
We demand that Western New York (WNY) residents are given first opportunity to bid on auction properties. Unsold properties would then be open to bid on by people outside of this area. Prices at the auction can be driven up high ($200,000+ in some areas) in part because out of town investors come in with deep pockets. Many of these investors are not invested in the community the way WNY residents are and care more about the profits they can make off of their investments then they do about the good of the community. This can cause a host of issues including, but not limited to, absentee landlords, properties that are not properly cared for, an endless cycle of properties coming back to the auction block, and most importantly, a loss of community wealth. Those outside of WNY should not be banned from the auction process, but preference should be given to Western New Yorkers who better know the needs of the community.
Make Surplus Funds Automatic
We demand that surplus funds be automatic and that former owners receive that money as soon as their property is sold and the full funds are received. The City of Buffalo Auction is a tax foreclosure auction and serves to recoup debt owed on the property. Anything that a property sells for in excess of that debt is owed back to the person that lost their property. For example if you owed $10,000 in back taxes and fees, and your house sells for $50,000 at auction, that profit of $40,000 is due back to you. The issue is that this is not well known and that the former property owner needs to file for their surplus funds in order to receive them. With the vast majority of residents not knowing about these funds they go unclaimed. It is truly awful to lose your property due to foreclosure, but having some seed money to start over is a good thing.
If you are in agreement with the above sentiments, then be sure to sign this petition, asking The City to reconsider the way that it does business when it comes to its property auctions.