This is our friend Neil, and the house he is closing on this month.
It’s about two blocks from our house, which I hesitate to call a Monster now that we live in it, so new name suggestions welcome. Like our house, it was owned by the City of Buffalo and put onto the demolition list. Obviously I think old buildings add value to their surrounding community, or Kevin and I wouldn’t be throwing so much effort into keeping something up that was well on the way to falling down. There are many demolitions that have happened in my neighborhood (how do you think we have three vacant lots in a row?) and more keep happening. When there’s a minor fire, the house isn’t rehabbed, it’s torn down. When the city takes a house, it falls onto the demo list and is taken down.
Properties foreclosed on by the city are auctioned each fall. The problem with buying a house owned by the city is that it takes a year or more. If our house and Neil’s were homestead-eligible, we could have shortened that process to a few months and $1 plus closing costs. As it is, we had to thrash through a byzantine thicket of red tape and bureaucratic procedures. For most of the process, we weren’t sure that the deal would go through and couldn’t rule out the possibility that we’d been throwing away hundreds of dollars and months of time. Even with the support of basically everyone we talked to on various floors of City Hall, there was no expediting the process, and our houses fell further into disrepair while we could only watch. Our roof had holes cut in it, so every month of delay meant a month of rain eroding the structure. Luckily last summer was a drought…
As I’ve been told down at Niagara Square (and correct me if I’m wrong,) the zones for eligibility in homesteading properties haven’t been updated in decades. As they stand, they rule out the expedited acquisition of plenty of otherwise ideal properties for extensive rehab. There are far fewer people who are willing to fight through a thicket for a year and pay fair market price for one of these properties, even if that price hovers around the thousand dollar mark.
Kevin and I attended a community meeting the other month and were recognized at our small table by a representative of the city, who said that Buffalo needs more people like us to do what we did and preserve neighborhood integrity by preventing demolitions. My reply then and now is that the city should make it far easier for people who want to rehab a demo property to acquire it in a timely manner. My neighborhood needs more houses to stay up, and right now we’ve got our hands full with this one. We welcome those who wish to join our struggle and would prefer that they had an easier time than we did.
ANYWAY, how’s progress on our place? We’ve got most of the wood windows repaired and ready to put back in place, are setting a date for a work holiday to scrape, repair and paint the clapboard, and have shored up the very back of the house which will be Kevin’s workshop. Still to come: roof and porch repair. We’ve got our hands full this summer and fall, that’s for sure.