Marie Carrubba, D-Ward 4, discusses housing issues during this week’s city council work session, while Regina Brackman, D-Ward 3, is watching. Pajama photo of John Whittaker

The chairman of the city council’s housing committee would like houses in Jamestown to be inspected before they are sold.

Marie Carrubba, D-Ward 4, discussed the idea during a committee meeting this week, seven days after the committee tried to define policies the committee wanted to implement to improve substandard housing in parts of the city.

Lisa Schmidtfrerick-Miller of the County Coalition for Healthy Housing discussed with committee members the Buffalo Rent Review Program, which is paid for with federal stimulus funds. The Buffalo Rental Verification Program is free for now due to stimulus money, but there will eventually be a fee for these verifications. Carrubba responded that she would like to see a more comprehensive program at Jamestown, although she is willing to explore a pilot program to address the shortcomings.

“After our conversation last week, I thought about it, and one of my thoughts was maybe to start a pilot project where we will do something, and I’m not just talking about renting real estate,” Carrubba said. “Any home, any property that is for sale, we will have a requirement to conduct an inspection, and any violations of the code must be done either by the seller before they sell the house, or with the consent of the buyer, that they will be made by the seller. the time they buy property. There are areas that do this and it prevents the revolving door of buying real estate and then quoting them over and over again. The cycle will never stop unless you demand that someone take responsibility for fixing code violations.”

Carrubba’s proposal will differ from the three existing ordinances that are likely to be presented to the council for discussion and vote in July. It could work in much the same way that a county-sanctioned inspection of septic systems in areas near Chatoqua Lake is required before selling a home in those areas, she said. Krystal Surdyk, the city’s development director, said a pilot program would be a good idea and suggested starting with houses that the city has identified as “19-a” characteristics.

Last year, Mayor Eddie Sandquist, Surdik and Benjamin Haskins, Assistant City Corporation Counsel, joined Carrubb, Brent Sheldon, R-Ward 1, and Regina Brackman, D-Ward 3, to announce that the city will use a legal process known as Art. 19. -a, through which the city may take possession of abandoned and vacant houses in the city.

A 2021 survey found 45 zombie houses in the city and between 175 and 200 abandoned or vacant houses in the city, with 12 19-a lawsuits and seven zombie house lawsuits filed. Another 30 homes have been identified as potential homes that the city could take ownership of and redevelop.

“Any of the 19-a properties, as soon as we get ownership of them, and we strive to attract new home buyers to them,” Surdyk said. “That’s exactly the intention: we do a pre-sales inspection and any work that needs to be done is agreed upon and the purchase has a period of time depending on how extensive it is to bring that property up to the norms and standards we have. This is agreed upon with the sale. We are trying to use this program to attract new buyers and homeowners.”

Carrubba went even further, recommending working with some of the city’s partner housing agencies to help first-time homebuyers once they move into their new home. She said many first time homebuyers end up selling homes because they use help to buy property but don’t know enough about maintenance and saving money to pay for repairs when problems arise, leading to code issues. in future.

Using 19-a facilities as a pilot for Carrubba’s proposal sounds promising, Surdyk said a large-scale home screening program would require more work to develop and eventually implement. Property acquired through the county foreclosure process may also be part of the pilot program.

“It’s something we can control” Surdyk said. “I don’t know what the legal mechanism is, whether it’s a charter change or how we do it for every property sold in the city, but in addition to 19a (real estate), there is an auction property.”

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