JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) – A new program to purchase dilapidated properties, fix them up, and then sell them to first-time homeowners is in the works in Jamestown.
Brainchild of Assistant Corporation Counsel Ben Haskins, the idea was first introduced to the city’s Housing Committee last month, with local leaders continuing a push to crackdown on zombie properties to better neighborhoods.
To kick things off, officials are seeking $750,000 dollars of American Rescue Plan Act funds.
“19-A is a statute under New York State law that allows municipalities to take titles from properties that are vacant, number one,” explained Haskins. “And number two, either at least one year in unpaid taxes, or subject to an order of condemnation.”
While not every project will yield a profit, officials say that’s not the point of this program.
“Instead of turning a profit, the focus has to be, how can we have the biggest impact on our neighborhoods by doing a house here,“ stated Haskins.
Once the homes are up to standards, they will be sold to first-time homeowners through many different programs. The new homeowner would then have to keep the property maintained, with an action based mortgage.
“Selling them to people who will, A, reside in them for at least five years as an owner-occupant,” explained Haskins. “B, during that time, pay their taxes on time. And C, once all the initial code enforcement violations that were written up upon our taking title have been fixed, that they will ameliorate further code enforcement that arises over that five year period.”
While this is a huge gamble for the city to take on, Director of Development Crystal Surdyk, says the benefits definitely outweigh the risks.
“There’s a number of benefits,“ stated Surdyk. “If we don’t bring up the house, if we don’t do some kind of intervention to this particular property and similar ones. There is a high likelihood that eventually we would have to demolish the property. That’s a much higher cost than the loss we would be taking. Additionally it helps to stabilize that neighborhood.”
She goes on to say that the newly occupied homes will also change dynamics within the City of Jamestown.
“A major focus of that program is to create new homeowners,“ explained Surdyk. “Right now we have a 51 percent rental in the city versus 49 percent homeowner occupied property, which is going the wrong direction.”
This program is still in development, and will gain additional input from the Chautauqua County Land Bank, the Real Estate Investors Association, and members of the Jamestown City Council before moving forward.