BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The City of Buffalo is holding its annual tax foreclosure auction starting next Tuesday, but this week hundreds of property owners are heading downtown to keep their homes and businesses off the auction block.
Among the hundreds of properties that are sold at the city’s auction each year, are homes that the owners were unable to keep up with their property taxes and fees, or in some cases might have been unaware they were delinquent.
City officials have been set up at the Erie County Courthouse to help those folks save their homes by setting up payment plans to get the homeowners caught up with their back taxes. Martin Kennedy, Buffalo’s Commissioner of Assessment and Taxation said, “We literally do everything possible to help people save their property.”
While there have been heart wrenching accounts of families having their homes sold out from under them at the city’s foreclosure auction, Kennedy estimates in the last 10 years, they have saved about 10,000 properties from the auction block.
Kennedy said that process starts by talking with city lawyers at the courthouse, “Our attorneys will review their income, review their ability to pay, determine a fair court order plan, be approved by the judge and it comes off the list.”
The Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Bank will also take as many as 100 of the residential properties off the auction block, and turn them over to the city to be restored and sold. Jocelyn Gordon, Executive Director of the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation—known as the land bank—said it is part of a new program initiated by the state to increase homeownership in the city.
“It is an initiative to sell the properties to somebody who will buy the property and live there, and that might even be a tenant. If that property is acquired and there are tenants living there, there will be an effort to help make those tenants homeowners, if they choose.”
With rising property values, Gordon said the land bank has been getting good returns on its investments, “Our properties have been selling for between 8% and 20% more than we anticipated. So it has just been a really strong market, and strategic improvements, and that has enabled us to recover 95% of our funding.”
The annual city tax auction is set for next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, October 11-13, but Erie County is holding its tax foreclosure auction this Thursday morning, and for the first time in years, county officials will be auctioning property in the city of Buffalo to cover back county taxes.