Gloversville looks into foreclosure program

GLOVERSVILLE — The city is exploring the possible development of a program that would see the city purchasing some underbid properties from the Fulton County tax foreclosure auction to be offered to income qualified homebuyers under certain restrictions.

Mayor Vincent DeSantis explained on Tuesday that the city approached the county last month following the annual auction of tax foreclosed properties seeking to obtain five residential properties located in the city that received bids below the amount owed in taxes for a proposed pilot program.

“Our proposal to the county was we would like to systematically offer those properties to income qualified homeowners in the city of Gloversville,” said DeSantis while speaking after Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.

According to DeSantis, under the program prospective homebuyers would be interviewed by a city committee composed of six or seven members who would go over the terms of purchasing the obtained properties that would be conveyed under a restricted covenant requiring that buyers bring the residences up to code within a set period of time and personally occupy the homes.

“This would do two things, it would prevent these properties from going back out to absentee landlords and it would also give opportunities to people who might not have an opportunity to own their own home,” DeSantis said.

These transactions would be subject to a reverter clause that would see the properties returned to city ownership if the homebuyers failed to perform the required maintenance or to uphold the terms of the purchase agreement.

If the city received any profits from the sale, DeSantis said the funds would be placed in an account earmarked for demolitions of deteriorating properties or to purchase additional tax foreclosed properties in future years for the program.

DeSantis said the city is currently interested in obtaining just five underbid auction properties to ensure the program can be run successfully before attempting to acquire a larger quantity. The Fulton County Board of Supervisors authorized the sale of seven other underbid properties on Monday.

“This is a pilot project, this would be something that we’re doing for the first time,” DeSantis said. “We don’t want to be overwhelmed by this, we want to do something that we know we can manage, that we know we can do properly.”

The city in its proposal to obtain the five residential properties is seeking to purchase the properties for an amount equal to the highest bids for each received by the county. Transactions for properties with bids at or above the owed tax value are completed during the auction.

DeSantis said he brought the subject of obtaining the five properties for the pilot program to the Fulton County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee. He and Fire Chief Thomas Groff were invited to attend the most recent meeting on June 27 to provide input to the board on whether to complete auction sales on underbid city properties.

“They were very receptive,” DeSantis said of the committee. “However, it has to be approved by the whole Board of Supervisors, it also has to be approved by our council.”

If the county agrees to sell the properties to the city, DeSantis said the Common Council would have to approve a local law authorizing the purchase after conducting a public hearing.

“This is all in the just the beginning stages,” he added.

Still, DeSantis expressed optimism about the proposed program’s potential to reduce the number of deteriorating foreclosure properties bought sight unseen during the annual auction only to languish for several years, eventually going through foreclosure once more after the new owners fail to bring the properties up to code due to the cost of needed work and neglect to pay taxes.

“If we’re going to change a problem that we’ve had for years and years and years, we’ve got to start doing things a little differently and we’ve got to be a little bit more aggressive in investing in our neighborhoods,” DeSantis said.

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