NIAGARA FALLS – The city’s initiative to get vacant, city-owned residential properties back on the tax rolls is entering another new phase.
Niagara Falls’ “Open House” program, run by the city’s Community Development Department, is hosting a “mini” property auction later this month.
City officials are starting the bidding for each of the three homes – which the city admits need a lot of work – at only $100.
But there are also some terms the city will mandate on purchasers, according to Seth Piccirillo, head of the Community Development Department.
“It’s specifically for people who are willing to buy these vacant houses and live in them for at least five years,” Piccirillo said.
In addition, the winning bidders also will have to submit a rehabilitation plan to the city within 60 days of the auction, as well as agree to have the property repaired and rehabilitated to meet city code requirements in a set amount of time.
If the property is multi-family, the winning bidder also will have to submit a property management plan within 60 days of the auction.
The auction will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18, in Council Chambers in City Hall, 745 Main St.
The properties on the auction block are 516 10th St., 432 Memorial Parkway and 452 Memorial Parkway.
The amount of time the auction winners will have to fix up the property will be different for each property, Piccirillo said. Larger homes will have at least a year.
“We want to set people up to be successful,” he said.
Individuals with a background in home renovations are among those the city hopes will find this situation attractive, he said.
The city will give interested parties a chance to view the properties’ interiors from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Friday. Staff of the Community Development Department will be on hand at each property to answer questions.
The winning bidders must be in good financial standing with the city, not owe any back taxes or other bills or fees. There is no income requirement in order to bid.
Properties selected for this auction came from a list of city-owned properties that have been long available at previous tax foreclosure auctions but have been passed over.
“The only other future these houses have is demolition,” Piccirillo said.
The two-family home at 432 Memorial was built in 1920 and has more than 2,600 square feet of space, according to city property records. It has a partial basement.
A few doors away, the two-family home at 452 Memorial was built in 1920. It has a two-car, detached garage, a full basement and more than 2,800 square feet of living space, according to city property records.
Then there’s the 2½-story home at 516 10th St. Built in 1890, the one-family home has more than 2,300 square feet of living space, city records indicate.
That home on 10th Street sits across from Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center’s Mizer Primary Care Center.
The city is trying to improve housing options around the hospital so more of its employees can choose to live in the nearby neighborhood, Piccirillo said.
But Joseph A. Ruffolo, president and chief executive officer of the hospital, said he would rather see that building razed because it appears to be a safety hazard.
“It’s boarded up,” Ruffolo said. “It looks like there’s been a fire in the back.”
There are at least three homes in that area that should be demolished, Ruffolo said.
“We’d appreciate more and more either rehabilitation or demolition” on 10th Street between Walnut and Ferry avenues across from the hospital’s emergency room and the Mizer Center, Ruffolo said, “so it can even be more attractive for urban housing opportunities for hospital employees.”
How does the city plan to make sure that the winning bidders remain living in the homes, as will be required?
The city will undertake site reviews at least once a year, “to be able to keep an eye on the house,” Piccirillo said.
There will be terms in any property sale agreement that would return the property to the city if the winning bidder does not meet the requirements.
Earlier this year, the city announced a push to inform residents of available properties, especially ones that may be adjacent to where they already live.
Anyone interested in possibly placing a bid at the Sept. 18 auction does not have to preregister with the city.
“The ideal situation is that this would be the start of many ‘mini’ home ownership auctions,” Piccirillo said.