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Filling vacant homes a growing need for City of Batavia

Of the past half decade, vacant and abandoned homes have become problem in Batavia, according to City Manager Jason Molino.

Vacant and abandoned homes bring down residential home values in the immediate area, attract crime, suck up city resources with code enforcement and police responses and eventually the city ends up paying for property clean-up.

On the other hand, a vacant home filled with a family adds $20,000 in retail buying power to the city's economy.

"Vacant homes are a burden on any municipality," Molino said. "Whether it's the resources we have to use to address them, the lack of buying power because of the vacancy, the deterioration of the home itself or the deterioration of the neighborhood around it, there's a lot of studies, a lot of data on the impact of vacant and abandoned homes and they have a negative impact."

Over the past two years, the City of Batavia has taken properties taken in foreclosure for lack of property tax payments and deeded the properties to Habitat for Humanity.

The program has proven a resounding success, Molino said. Properties restored by Habitat have increased in assessed value by 30 to 40 percent and are occupied by families that take care of the properties.

"You've got owner-occupants who take pride in their home," Molino said. "It's a good program. I wish we could do more of it."

One of the tasks for the yet-to-be-hired assistant city manager will be to look at ways to get more vacant and abandoned houses into the hands of responsible homeowners.

"With continued focus and leadership the city could make an aggressive effort to target four or five properties annually with more partnerships similar to that with Habitat for Humanity," Molino wrote in a report to City Council. "This includes several initiatives such as attempting taking title of abandoned properties quicker, greater accountability of mortgage holders and partnering with not-for-profits for rehabilitation and investment in these properties."

Monday night, the council approved the sale of four house seized for back taxes (six properties total). The houses are at 5-7 Buell St., 6 Madison Ave., 3 Manhattan Ave., and 11 S. Spruce St.

So far, there's no deal in place to deed one or more of the homes to Habitat, but Molino said such an arrangement is still possible. If an agreement is reached, the council would have to approve the transfer.

No date has been announced for auction of the seized properties.

Chelsea O'Brien
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Why isn't Vibrant Batavia involved in working on these homes? It seems like some of their $40,000 could have gone toward buying these homes, along with some paint and elbow grease, to get them up to buying standards.

Some more questions: Why would a young family move here and invest in Batavia? How do we market to young and educated people? How do we keep families in Batavia once they move? Are there incentives to buy rather than rent in the city? If we do fix up homes, our assessments and taxes go up, so what incentive do I have to beautify my home rather than just keep it livable? Has City Council considered going through all of the laws to see which ones are actually hurting home owners?

John Roach
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Chelsea,
That is not what Vibrant Batavia was set for.

You do know of course that depending on what fix up you do, and the cost, you get short term tax break?

If taxes are what makes you decide to fix you home or not, just don't fix your home, that is up to you. When I sided my house, taxes where not part of the decision.

Jeff Allen
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"so what incentive do I have to beautify my home rather than just keep it livable?". Mine is pride, responsibility of ownership, and return on investment.

tim raines
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Maybe Mr Molino can explain how deeding a property for $1 to habitat can increase city tax revenue.

On 5/2013 the city deeded 2 Mckinney, valued at $37,000, to habitat for $1.
That property only generates $346.00 a year in property taxes and $825,00 in school taxes.

The city could of sold the property in the $37k range to an induvidual and still generated the $1071 per year tax revenue. Habitat still owns the property.

The city would have increased their revenue by approx $37,000 on that 1 property. Instead they sold it for a buck.
Am i missing something??

Mark Brudz
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Home vacancies in WNY is not a new condition, all cities have been facing this in increasing numbers since the late 80's. It isn't about property taxes either, it is about shifting demographics.

Tim, you pointed out numbers about 2 McKinley, yes the home was originally valued by the assessment at $37,000.00 but was it really worth $37,000.00 in true market value? Habit For Humanity is more about building community than tax rolls, although that is part of it. In the long run building community does in fact add to the tax rolls, especially when home ownership over rented homes are involved. You also assume that there was a ready market for that home.

The real resolution to building vacancy is vibrancy in the community, Habitat for Humanity does much to build vibrancy and it is not a government entity, Shifting the demographics or in simple terms keeping people in the city, is all about vibrancy of the city. Choosing a Habitat For Humanity as an example might not be the best example to use to illustrate the issue. Just sayin

tim raines
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2 mckinney was purchased for $35,000 in 2009.

The city could have sold it for thousands more than $1.00. That's a perfect example.

It's a real eye opener if a ready market isn't available for a mere $35k home in Batavia

Mark Brudz
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Actually, according to Zillow, it was last sold in 2004 for $35,895.00 and acquired by the city in 2009, but that is not relevant.

What about factoring the cost of maintaining the home in order to keep it marketable until sold?

What about the fact that in 2008-2009 and for a few years after, the entire housing market was stymied because no one had the resources or ability to borrow to purchase the home?

What about the fact that the city is not in the real estate business?

It is real easy to throw out a why not statement without recognizing the financial liabilities to taxpayers to maintain the building, or for that matter the safety concerns of vacant buildings seized for non payment of taxes, or the property value drag. It is even easier to jump on Jason Molino for issuing a statement of fact which he did in this instance.

In the end, it still boils down to changing demographics and it's impact on communities. An abandoned home, is an abandoned home and in order to sell it it pretty much has to be maintained. In order for someone to get financing for a home built in 1910, the lenders require the sellers to present the building in a certain condition, an additional cost to the taxpayers.

The city did not buy the home, they seized it for non payment of taxes, the only loss is keeping it on the books for any period of time. Conversely, deeding it to Habitat removes those cost from the taxpayers, puts the home in line for restoration, and returns it to the tax rolls which is a win and a profit to the city, plus a step in the direction of keeping that neighborhood a vibrant part of the city which ultimately helps us all. It maintains or increases property values of adjacent homes and does in fact add $20,000 dollars or so to the local economy based on an average family of 4 without an additional cost to the city. Really, it is kind of a no brainer.

Brenda Gill
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I remember a comment made by a then campaigning city council member after a long week of door to door hellos, " I had no idea there was so many foreclosed homes in the city".
3 Manhattan is one of 4 on that street not counting the one where there was a police sweep/code violation over a year ago.
One of those 4 is going on it's 5th year and I've been told there are other homes that have been in limbo for longer.

So this is a step in the right direction but do we as a city have to wait until there's an assistant city manager to put programs such as grants and or loans in place ?

Timothy Hens
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I have seen houses on the market for as low as $12,000. Granted the conditions are usually deplorable, but it is the cost and complexity of improvements required that scare people away.

It's not just the cost of the house and the taxes, but often times the cost of heating the home is just as bad.

In certain situations we'd be farther ahead to tear the house down and sell the vacant lot.

There could be a tremendous market for energy efficient "in-fill" houses. Even though they might cost a bit more, their long term operating costs would make the mortgage more affordable.

Mark Potwora
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Why does it have to be Habitat for Humanity.i don't think they can handle rehabbing that many houses at one time....Since these are now city property, auction them off with the stipulation that only bidders who are going to live in them for 5 years can bid on them..You just can't give property away if the persons you give them too don't have the money to fix and repair them..Let alone pay taxes on them....To sit on them as the city is doing right now does no good either..Auction them off now ,not later..

John Roach
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Tim,
Don't forget that if the house is on the south side, it could cost $1,000-2000, now for flood insurance.

Dave Meyer
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Hey Jason. You're obviously too busy to work on this. Maybe you can have your new assistant work on this when he's not working on the south side flood plain.
What a joke

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