Finding bidders on Jamestown properties available in the Chautauqua County tax foreclosure auction is never a problem.
Finding the right bidders – this has been a difficult problem for Jamestown officials.
“Maybe the strategy is really strategic marketing of these properties to investors and developers and people who we know are reputable,” City Development Manager Crystal Surdyk said in response to a question from Councilor William Reynolds, R-Ward 5. “I think a general publicity, our experience is with investors, and I use that term very loosely, they know that. They are looking for. That’s what they do. They have the algorithms. It’s always the people we don’t want to buy these properties that are looking for them and are the first to come up for auction.
The county tax auction will be held online July 9-22 with approximately 300 Jamestown properties available. Chautauqua County Land Bank officials will work with city officials, including Jamestown, to identify problem properties that local officials want to see renovated or demolished. Some of these properties will be removed from the auction for rehabilitation or demolition. Those who remain in contention will have a list of code violations attached to them so buyers know how much work needs to be done to bring properties up to local codes,
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the county has not held a tax foreclosure auction since 2019. The change in the online auction and the time since the last auction prompted Reynolds’ question.
“What we will do is we will work with the land bank to identify properties that would be good investments, that would be good for first-time home buyers, that would be good for development,” said Surdyk. “If there are a number of vacant plots that are fairly close to each other, maybe there is a structure that could be demolished and maybe we could have a very nice empty plot of good cut. That’s kind of the strategy we have. The land bank is really the mechanism to get those properties off the auction list for development purposes, for first-time home buyers, for home rehabilitation projects and that sort of thing. I think that’s a very good point and something we can explore in terms of what that strategic marketing would be. I think it’s also one of those things where we have to be very careful who gets this message because the predators already know. They are already there and they are already there ready to outbid everyone.
Marie Carruba, D-Ward 4 and Housing Committee Chair, told the story of a property near her Southwestern Independent Living Center office. Two people bought the property with the intention of renovating it, but found that the list of works to repair the property quickly ate their project budget. The property is now back up for auction, Carrubba said. Although there is a list of code violations, bidders do not have access inside a property, so they may be overwhelmed with the amount of work involved.
“It’s just repeating the cycle,” Carruba said. “I think it’s a start and we’re looking at more ways to pilot (program) to get these homes out of this revolving door of delinquency and code enforcement becoming a point of no return where the property is eventually condemned and demolished. ”
Surdyk said the flip side is that investors don’t care about the work needed because they’ll do the bare minimum to get a house ready to rent. She pointed to a future where the city has the right mix of programs in place so the tax auction is less of a concern each year.
“Our goal is to eventually get to a place where we don’t need the auction,” said Surdyk.