Rather than auction away foreclosed homes, maybe the city should offer them first, at a minimal cost, to city employees, Councilman Tim Buckley suggested at Monday's Batavia City Council meeting.
His idea met with some resistance, particularly Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian, who said any such program should be open to the entire community.
But the gist of Buckley's proposal got some support -- rather than auction off homes that the city has seized for unpaid taxes, the city should create a program to turn them into owner-occupied residences. Instead of taking a chance that through the auction process they become rentals, find buyers who want to fix them up as their own homes.
"We should set up some type of committee to look into taking foreclosures and selling the property at a minimum cost to employees with some guarantees, and one of the guarantees would be that would agree to live in the property or five years," Buckley said.
In Buckley's plan, city employees would get the property a low cost, giving them instant equity that they could borrow against and invest $20,000 to $30,000 in home restoration.
There are 130 people employed by the city.
“When I was a young patrolman, I know I would have jumped at a program like this,“ Buckley said.
Christian said she was totally against the idea of making such a program available only to city employees.
"I would rather offer it to the whole community than just one single group," Christian said.
Councilman Frank Ferrando struck a middle ground, saying opening such a program to the whole community at first might pose too many complications.
"I think what Tim is saying will give us better control, and if the program works, we can expand later," Ferrando said.
City Manager Jason Molino agree to research a similar program Buckley said was once in place in Rochester, as well as what other cities might be doing along similar lines, and report back to the council.