Since 2009, the city has been selling its liens in bulk to American Tax Funding. The idea is to get the city more money than it could collect on its own and let another company worry about collections and sale of the properties. The city did keep some of the properties for targeted development.
Since 2009, the city has sold 20,948 liens to ATF and collected nearly $21 million. The city was paid between 43 and 49 cents on the dollar. Since ATF took over, the city’s delinquency collection rate has risen from 44 to 55 percent.
The city is now looking for a consultant to assess how it’s going and offer alternatives. There have been complaints from neighborhood groups the ATF-owned properties are languishing. The vacant houses are in limbo too long, they say. In addition, some property owners are not happy with ATF’s payment plans. It’s possible the consultant will recommend the city continue its relationship with ATF.
Those types of complaints led Syracuse to stop doing business with ATF, which strongly denied it let properties languish. The Post-Standard reported last year:
The company sells some properties over the Internet to buyers as far away as Germany, who may or may not be prepared to address the building code violations, old water bills or additional unpaid taxes that come with the houses, city officials say.
In other cases, ATF has allowed abandoned properties to languish and fall further into disrepair because the houses have minimal value and would be difficult for the company to sell, said Tom Babilon, an assistant corporation counsel (in Syracuse).
“Vacant and substandard housing is one of the priority issues that we are trying to remediate,” Mayor Stephanie Miner said. “And ATF has not helped us redevelop or renovate our neighborhoods and our housing stock at all.”
Marini, the CEO of American Tax Funding, said the company owns $100 million worth of tax liens all across the country. Syracuse is the only city that has picked a fight with his company, and he’s not sure why.
ATF’s profit motive gives it a strong incentive to improve conditions in neighborhoods where it owns liens and properties, because that helps boost the value of company assets, he said.
“How would ATF gain by allowing these properties to languish?” he asked. “A blighted neighborhood impacts us as badly as it does everyone else.”
That article quoted Rochester officials saying they’re happy with ATF. But since then, neighborhood groups have gotten more vocal about ATF-controlled properties. The entire situation shows how difficult it is for declining cities to deal with abandoned properties and homeowners struggling to make payments.
Links of the Day:
– Now, the other side. The fired boss of the crime lab filed a notice to sue. It’s full of details that make Maggie Brooks, Mike Green and Sandra Doorley look bad.
– The candidates for the 27th District congressional seat are from Erie County, but the district stretches to Canandaigua. Residents of small towns want to know what Chris Collins and Kathy Hochul will do for them.
– The pink slime scare was a hallmark of bad, sensational reporting.
– The post-goal celebrations of Abby Wambach and company are annoying opponents.
– Given what we now know about football’s impact on players, can the sport be fixed?