Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY)
Land bank to purchase vacant house in Midtown
A longvacant house on Franklin Street in Midtown will be sold to the Kingston City Land Bank for nearly $20,000 in back taxes.
The Common Council voted 7-2 during an online meeting Tuesday to transfer 124-126 Franklin St. to the land bank for $19,398.71. The land bank is to renovate the house and sell it at an affordable price to a family that will occupy it.
Voting against the sale were Alderman Patrick O’Reilly, a nonenrolled voter who represents Ward 7, and Alderwoman Michele Hirsch, D-Ward 9. They questioned whether selling the property to the land bank was the best avenue for the city to dispose of it.
Daniel Kanter, chairman of the board of the Kingston City Land Bank, said the nonprofit organization has the funding to renovate five properties in Kingston this year and that three of the projects are underway. Once the properties are renovated, they are to be sold to families earning between 60% and 100% of the area’s median income, he said.
“At present, there are four city-owned properties on Franklin Street,
all of which are off the tax rolls, all of which are derelict, all of which are lacking any productive use whatsoever,” Kanter said. “The city has had grant funds for years to renovate and sell two of these properties as affordable homeownership opportunities. They’ve been unable to commence work, and I’m not aware of any timeline or real set plan to do so. We are offering the opportunity to take care of at least one of these properties.”
Once the property is renovated and sold, Kanter said, it will be back on the tax rolls and enforcement mechanisms will be in place to keep the property affordable over the long term.
Kanter said the property had been earmarked for office space for the land bank, but that city-run project never moved forward. The land bank also determined that offices were not the best use of a structure in a residential neighborhood, he said.
Hirsch said the land bank does not have a proven track record of housing a family and that when it offered the three houses it currently is rehabilitating for sale, no families qualified to buy them due to restrictions that had been placed on the transactions. Hirsch also said offering the Franklin Street property for sale at auction was not the only other option. She said there are organizations like Ulster YouthBuild that rehabilitate homes and offer them for sale to first-time, low-income homebuyers.
Council Majority Leader Reynolds Scott-Childress, D-Ward 3, said the land bank is the only housing entity in Kingston with the resources to do the kind of work required at 124-126 Franklin St. He said the property transfer will not cost the city any money and, in fact, Kingston will be recouping overdue taxes.
Other lawmakers said the cost to rehabilitate the property on Franklin Street would be prohibitive to buyers looking for a return on their investment. The property has been vacant for about 40 years, they said.
O’Reilly asked why the city didn’t sell the property to the highest bidder and then use the proceeds to create more affordable housing. He also questioned whether a family chosen by the land bank to buy the house would be able to afford the taxes after the renovation and increase in value.
Alderman Tony Davis, D-Ward 6, said the city does not have the capacity to create affordable housing itself. He noted the increased costs of building materials as a barrier to such work.