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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Abandoned Homes In Buffalo, N.Y. Selling For $1

Pictured is the home Mike Puma bought for $1 in Buffalo, before repairs began. (Mike Puma)

Pictured is the home Mike Puma bought for $1 in Buffalo, before repairs began. (Mike Puma)

Like many cities, Buffalo, New York, is facing a glut of abandoned homes and lots. There are roughly 16,000 vacant lots and 4,500 vacant homes throughout the city.

Instead of tearing the homes down, city officials are selling them for $1. They’re calling it the Urban Homestead Program. The program requires that residents have the ability to make necessary repairs, and commit to living in the home for at least three years.

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson speaks to Mike Puma, who bought one of the homes and is fixing it up.

Guest

  • Mike Puma, Buffalo resident who bought one of the $1 houses. He’s also a project manager for Preservation Studios, a historic preservation consulting firm.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • livebaltimore

    This is not a new idea. Baltimore City started a dollar home program in 1973. The dollar houses had similar restrictions to the ones in your story. The successful program led to the revitalization and growth of many city neighborhoods. Some overview here: http://www.baltimorefishbowl.com/stories/remember-baltimores-dollar-house-program-is-it-time-to-start-it-up-again/

    • LeCalabro

      Which racial group bought the houses and revitilized the neighborhood??

      • Anonymous

        Does that really matter?

        • Jesse781

          It does to unapologetic racists.

          • dontberediculous

            Seriously, who the h— asks a question like that? Put the white sheets back int he closet please LeCalabro

          • LeCalabro

            To: dontberediculous: An intelligent person would ask that kind of question. You would not be one of the people revitilizing the neighborhood. Louie

          • LeCalabro

            Name calling creeps like you infest much of America. We would be better off without you.

        • LeCalabro

          This is Amderica–it matters to me. I assume it was whites or Asians who bought and revitilized the neighborhood. . Do you know who bought the houses. .

          • Loe

            You are correct.

      • Leslie Gray

        What FRICKING ridiculous question

        • LeCalabro

          It may be ridiculous to you—but I am more comfortable with my own kind. Thank God this is America—but folks like you would deny me my civil rights and resort to name calling when you have no answer. I have a right to live where I want. You do too—go where you want–but please stay away from me. Thank you.

          • Whamadoodle

            You… you do know how World War Two ended, don’t you?
            The racists ended up picking so many fights with people they thought were “inferior” that there ended up being too many of those other people. Duh.

            If you have some sort of segregationist fantasy, uh… you… you do know that you’re never, never, ever, going to hermetically seal yourself away from all those other races that you think are inferior, don’t you?

            If you don’t know either of those two things, then you should probably learn from those other races, instead of putting them down, because you could do with a little more critical thinking in your head. Have a nice life.

          • LeCalabro

            Why does it trouble you that I am more comfortable with my own kind, and I arrange that situation as often as I can. It’s less about hating others. It’s moe about just being comfortable with my own kind . If you don’t feel tnat way—you have every right to live your own life. Thank God I live in the USA, a place where you are legally allowed to live that way, if you do not break our civil rights laws.

          • Whamadoodle

            “It’s less about hating others”

            Yyyeah… right.

            It troubles me because 1) you hurt people who aren’t “your own kind” (whatever that means–I’m as white as white, but I sure ain’t “your kind” if you’re a racist), whenever you “arrange that situation” of shunning them (whether you’re doing it by avoiding doing business with them, trying to keep your kids from marrying them, refusing to rent from them, or just giving them an uptight look when they were just trying to make friends with you; and

            2) when you happen to “arrange that situation” and the Indian, black, Latino, or Asian person you’re shunning should happen to be a doctor (I’ve met doctors of all those descriptions before, and you probably know they exist), and your loved one is having a heart attack, or happens to be a firefighter when their house is on fire, you’re going to have hurt your own loved one. (If you HAVE no loved ones, then you’re right, this will never apply.)

            THAT’S why… well, those are just a couple of very good reasons why your racism troubles me. I could go on and on all day with more, but I can see that you have not one single good reason to offer FOR your racism, other than your “comfort,” and you’re not used to opening up your skull to new ideas. But seriously: you REALLY, deeply need to make yourself uncomfortable more often, man. Your comfort is very precious, but it’s injuring people.

            If you have nothing deeper to offer, then I leave the last word to you.

          • LeCalabro

            I repeat, please read carefully what I originally wrote: “Why does it trouble you that I am more comfortable with my own kind, and I arrange that situation as often as I can. It’s less about hating others. It’s moe about just being comfortable with my own kind . If you don’t feel that way—you have every right to live your own life, please allow me to live mine as I see fit.

            Thank God I live in the USA, a place where you are legally allowed to live that way, of course, only if you do not break our civil rights laws.”

            Thank you,.

          • Whamadoodle

            Yep, uh… I sure did read it carefully, all right. And answered with good reasons why it should trouble me (i.e., the fact that you are injuring people who need your help, and injuring your own people if they need help from those you judge as inferior). Looks like you didn’t read that too carefully, or logically. Have a nice life, though.

          • LeCalabro

            Who did I call inferior?? Lots of your stuff is obvioulsy in your crazy head. Leave Americans alone to live where they want—You would have done well on Hitlers team–forcing people to do things they do not want to do.

          • Whamadoodle

            I AM American. This is my country as much as any other American’s. I want an integrated country instead of a racist, homogenous one, and so do most of us, and most of our elected representatives. Any other questions?

          • LeCalabro

            This is America and some of us do not want to be intergrated. Why can’t you respect , honor and appreciate that it is many whites desire that we be left to live with our own and not be forced to live where you chose us to live. Employment and public facilities whould be open to everyone and discrimination at those levels should be illegal. .

          • Whamadoodle

            I said zero about forcing YOU to live anywhere; it is simply that you cannot choose who will be your neighbor. And most Americans don’t want you to be able to discriminate there.

            This is… really simple stuff. You seriously can’t figure out from my posts that that was what I was getting at? I’m kinda thinking you may just be trolling and pretending to be incapable of understanding that simple point.

            I call troll.

          • LeCalabro

            I’m 82 and can barely stroll, no less troll, whatever the heck that means anyway. If I cannot choose who my neighbor is, does that not deny me the right to live where I want. Why do you want to deny me that desire.

          • Whamadoodle

            As I said–and as you heard very well–I said zero about forcing YOU to live anywhere; that means that I am happy to allow you the right to live where you want. I do not want to deny you that desire.

            I will grant your neighbors, however, the same desire, no matter their race; therefore, black, brown, red or yellow people may move next door to you, no matter where in America you live. That way, you AND people of ALL the other races get to live exactly where you want.

            The only thing you DON’T get to do is order people of other races not to move in next to you. They, too, have the right to live where they want. Why do you want to deny them that desire, if they happen to want to live in your neighborhood?

          • Loe

            Who’s yellow?

          • Whamadoodle

            John Boehner, of course.

          • Loe

            Thanks for clarifying. I was wondering which people you were referring to when you listed black, brown, red, and yellow. I guess there could be a very tiny chance that Boehner would move next door to a dollar home. I think this is the dollar home thread, or was.

          • Loe

            Most of the flak you are getting is unwarranted, because people feel guilty about what is going on with these $1 homes and want to redirect attention to you, make you out to be the “bad guy” (or gal)/racist. In only one of your latter posts did you identify your race, so it was anyone’s guess what your questions were getting at, yet folks immediately jumped on you with accusations. You’re a person who feels comfortable with their own, and that describes the majority of neighborhoods in this country. And most people feel that way. Some folks have taken the steps to live outside that box, some who are truly “colorblind” and some just to make it seem so.

          • LeCalabro

            Thank you Loe. Best wishes, Louie

          • Loe

            LeCalabro, have you seen Clint Eastwood’s movie “Gran Torino”? I highly recommend you check it out…great movie.

          • LeCalabro

            Thanks Loe—Yes, I did see it—and it was a wonderful movie. He was angry with the Asians moving in next door to him, but in the end he realized they were good people, the same as his family of European Americans. Best wishes, louie

      • Mick

        I believe the group you’re asking about are the Hipsters. They like to move into a rundown area and fix up old homes and open small business. The bastards. Everyone walking around in silly little hats and wearing horned rimed glasses…

        • Loe

          Very nice well thought our response. When will we learn to just stop seeing the differences in skin tone. We are all human beings.

          • Mick

            Thanks.

      • http://www.adrenaldesign.com/ Joby Elliott

        Which chromosome are you missing? Seriously. What’s *wrong* with you?

        • LeCalabro

          I may be missing the one you have—thank goodness.

      • John

        Hello LeCalabro!
        I recently just purchased a homestead eligible house and I am white if it does make a difference to you. The neighborhood I have invested in is primarily black and I am looking forward to meeting everyone and helping each other out. I have even gotten to attend the neighborhood tax payer association meeting and it was really moving to see how much these members care for their community. I am very proud to call myself a neighbor to them and have big shoes to fill. If you have any other questions on what the experience has been like or the neighborhood itself, please feel free to ask me.

        • LeCalabro

          Hello John: This is America–we get to live where we want. If you feel better by living with blacks rather than you do with whites— that’s your choice—not mine though.

          I am more comfortable living with whites. Does that mean I hate blacks, not in my opinion, I hope not, but I get a feeling that you may think that I do. I am therefore sorry for that attitude, if it is yours. best wishes, louie

          • Loe

            Certainly at 82 you’ve earned the right to live where you are most comfortable without being labeled a racist for choosing to do so.

          • LeCalabro

            Thank you Loe.

        • Loe

          What color is your house?

        • Loe

          Hi John, is there any movement you are aware of to help some of the folks save their houses before they are confiscated and sold for a buck? I’d like to donate, every dollar counts. Heck, in this case, every dollar equals a home. Seriously, please update if you hear of such at one of the community meetings. Thanks in advance.

          • homesteadperson

            Hello Loe,
            I’m also a “homesteader” so I’ve been through the process to acquire one of these homes. There are actually limitations in the contract barring any previous owners (and family members) from purchasing the house for a dollar. The city does this because this would be a way to default on one’s taxes and get the confiscated property back for less than what is owed to the government. Unfortunately, eviction is a reality. However (and I speak for all the fellow homesteaders I know) this program offers people a chance to purchase a home who otherwise would not be able to afford to. I have not yet met anyone “rich” who has taken advantage of the program. You have to live in the house three years, and I see that deterring people just looking to make a quick buck. Saving these houses is a labor of love as well as an investment.

      • Loe

        It’s those darn Jews again. Oh, wait a minute, we’re not a race, we’re a religion…sorry.

      • Loe

        Predominantly Whites and Asians with money are buying up these properties. Usually to increase value and turn a profit rather than stay past the time restrictions being imposed to disguise what is really going on here. Most of the homes are in neighborhoods of color, or what used to be so. As the previous occupants get evicted the demographics are changing. That’s the whole plan.

  • Derek Rubinoff

    Considering that 90 minutes away in Toronto smaller middle-class houses have hit the seven-figure mark, this is potentially like Buffalo paying $1M to a Torontonian to live there. Torontonians, would you consider doing that?

    • Loe

      Shhhh, next thing you know Torontonians with return border access will be buying up all these dollar homes to live in and rent their places out for a living income. Hmmm, cool wealthy Canadians with money to spread around in the area might not be a bad idea, if it weren’t for the poor Americans who were dislocated to make room for you. I can see it now, Buffalo becomes the rich Canadians retirement getaway, like folks here do with parts of Mexico…Little Toronto, East Toronto… Well, at least Canadians might share some of their wealth to create affordable housing for the less fortunate, rather than just buy in to turn a profit. I hear you Canadians have more compassion and class than we do here when it comes to your fellow man.

  • ponder61

    Do they find the original owners of the house, maybe the ones who were kicked out, and offer their houses back to them for a dollar?

    • Reality check

      Because they did such a good job caring for it in the first place right?

      • Loe

        Hard times can befall anyone at any time. Most damage happens after the house is vacant, kids and disrespectful vagrants and thieves. They make holes in walls and windows, rip out doors and fixtures, steal wiring, plumbing, appliances, fixtures and cabinetry. Many times because someone lost their job (a common occurrence since 2008), or a Senior on Social Security whose pay couldn’t keep up with utility or government tax/fee increases, and couldn’t pay the water bill or taxes. They get booted and a stranger with a bank account gets a home for a dollar. It’s a war on the less fortunate, robbing the poor to benefit the rich. Reverse Robin Hood economics, perpetrated by uncaring or corrupt government. Wonder how many folks have taken their lives over such BS.

    • Greg

      They weren’t “kicked out.” The houses were abandoned.

      • Tammy

        there were many homeowners that were evicted as a result of falling behind on their taxes because the city of Buffalo refused any attempt at repayment agreements…so, yes, many were “kicked out.”

        • Loe

          That there is a travesty.

    • Loe

      This is a wonderful idea, and offer them the $15,000 it supposedly cost to demolition as a renovation fund grant. Monitor the funds if need be. Not too difficult for a city inspector to know what works needs done (I believe the have a list), and eager contractors would sign up at pre-arranged rates for the most important work. A hand up for those in need, rather than a hand out only to those who can afford investing in government confiscated homes. Guess it is a way for the city to circumvent redlining laws. Out with the old, in with the new, and all that I’m a disabled senior citizen, military veteran, but I don’t qualify for a dollar house because I don’t have a $5000 bank account. I can get as much or more done with my friends, family and connections in the trades. I would love the chance at home ownership in my favorite American city. If nothing else, there is economic discrimination going on here. I’ll bet many of the folks who lost their homes are on the street homeless somewhere. Meanwhile thousands of confiscated homes sit empty. Something is seriously wrong here.

  • Mick

    The thing is once you buy one of these homes don’t you live in Buffalo?

    • Loe

      Buffalo has a lot going for it, a renovated waterfront district, close to Niagra Falls, one of America’s most beautiful old park systems, an NFL team (Buffalo Bills – technically located in nearby Oak Park), and a changing demographic of new residents who are willing to invest in the revitalization of their neighborhoods (that’s the hope anyway). TripAdvisor highlights at least 176 things of note to do in Buffalo.

      • Mick

        But what do people do for a living there? I would love to live in Beatty, Nev (I love the the desert) but there is nothing to do to make a living there, hence almost everyone is retired living on a fixed income. So when I ask ,”don’t you live in Buffalo”, it’s a serious question; just because you can own a house doesn’t mean you can afford to live there.

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