County land bank acquires 18 tax-foreclosed properties in Cheektowaga

The Town of Cheektowaga is slowly acquiring tools to help fight Zombie homes like this one on Yvette Drive as a result of New York State's Foreclosure Relief Act. (Jim Herr/Chronicle File Photo)
The Town of Cheektowaga is slowly acquiring tools to help fight Zombie homes like this one on Yvette Drive as a result of New York State's Foreclosure Relief Act. (Jim Herr/Chronicle File Photo)

CHEEKTOWAGA – Eighteen residential properties across the Town of Cheektowaga will soon see new life after being recently acquired by the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation.

The town submitted a list of 36 distressed, vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties to BENLIC last January.  The land bank acquired half of the properties during Erie County’s recent In-Rem Auction.  The properties racked up an estimated $1,316,843 in back taxes.

“These properties are vacant, and they’re in tax foreclosure,” said BENLIC Executive Director Jocelyn Gordon. “Our mission is to try and get properties back into tax paying status.”

Some of the lots are empty, and the land bank will work with neighboring residents to have them acquire the land.  Other properties with vacant structures will be sold to potential homeowners or investors after a BENLIC building inspector attaches a work scope to the property.

“The buyer is going to have one year to complete those improvements on the property.  The structures that were accepted by our land bank are those that we felt are good candidates for this program.  They’re in rough shape, but they’re not in horrible shape.”

The BENLIC board of directors will have the final say as to who can purchase the properties, and Ms. Gorden says potential homeowners get priority over investors.

“We don’t have to take the highest offer price; that’s another nice thing about a land bank.  We have the fixability to approve an offer that’s the best and responsible offer and will have the best outcome for the town.”

The dollar amount of the work scope is liened against the property, and once the work is completed, the lien is removed.

While BENLIC does remodel some properties themselves, they modeled the work scope program after other land bank programs in Syracuse and Albany.

“It enables us to do more properties, get more properties back on the tax rolls, and have an overall greater impact.”

Also, BENLIC will work with the town to develop three vacant lots at 25 Hoerner Avenue, 38 Barbara Place, and 89 Gardenville Drive.  New housing will be built on these parcels using grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Town of Cheektowaga is one of a few Erie County municipalities – the others being Amherst, Kenmore, and Evans – taking full advantage of the land bank program according to Ms. Gorden.  She says the town was stricken by a perfect storm of estate issues, absentee landlords, and foreclosures during the mortgage crisis of 2008.

“Those three things contribute to Cheektowaga really needing these programs that we have to offer.  I give them so much credit for taking advantage of it and being really active with us.”

Aquired BENLIC Properties:

  • 89 Gardenvale Drive
  • 33 Donna Court
  • 27 Alpine Place
  • 38 Barbara Place
  • 106 Wilshire Road
  • 166 Straley Avenue
  • 74 Hoerner Avenue
  • 40 Reo Avenue
  • 11 Normandy Avenue
  • 1122 Walden Avenue
  • 2355 Genesse Street
  • 25 Joerner Avenue
  • 20 Andrews Avenue
  • 1 Schlenker Avenue
  • 52 Olcott Place
  • 94 Bellevue Avenue
  • 257 Chapel Avenue
  • 129 David Avenue