SCHENECTADY — Five proposed land deals to sell foreclosed city properties back to family members of the original homeowners appeared on the agenda during the Schenectady City Council’s meeting on Monday evening, with the council declining to pass all five deals.
Each proposed transaction would have seen city homes sold back to family members of residents who had properties foreclosed on due to unpaid property taxes.
All five resolutions failed to secure the required four council votes for passage, with City Council President Marion Porterfield and Councilmembers Damonni Farley and Carmel Patrick supporting each measure, with Councilmembers John Polimeni and Doreen Ditoro voting against each resolution, scuttling the five proposed sales.
City Councilmembers John Mootooveren and Carl Williams were both absent from Monday’s council meeting, with Polimeni noting after the meeting that he expects the home sales to appear on a future council agenda with the full council present.
The prospective homebuyers were required to pay back all taxes owed to the city and added fees before they were eligible to repurchase the foreclosed homes.
Polimeni contended during Monday’s meeting that the city was providing an incentive for residents not to pay their taxes with the proposed property sales.
“The council has decided that it wants to allow the homeowners or a family member to purchase the home back by paying the back taxes, any fees and $1,000 on top of that,” he said. “Some might say that this makes the city whole, but does it? The fact is that in order to get a foreclosure it generally takes three years and some of these houses were much longer, certainly because of COVID.”
Porterfield noted during the meeting that the families each had extenuating circumstances that led them to lose their homes.
Resident Marc LaCroix, whose proposed deal to purchase his family’s home at 1040 Wendell Avenue for $16,999 was not passed by the council, said he was disheartened to see the property sale fail to be passed by the council on Monday.
“You have to consider people Mr. Polimeni and the rest of the city council,” he said during the meeting. “You may not have those extenuating circumstances and you may have never been there or felt it, but consider people and have a heart. There’s an underbelly in this world, but people are trying to do the right thing. We were scrambling, scrambling and we got the money to pay everything back, plus whatever they added on.”
Farley said on Tuesday that the sale of the properties would be a win-win for the city, with residents paying their back taxes while remaining in their homes.
“I think any decision that you make on the council, we want to consider all of the implications,” he said. “In this one here, the first thing that we said is that the city has to be made completely whole. The research will show you that a lot of times the city will foreclose on a property and end up losing money, even after the point of sale. So even if we kept this on a fiscal responsibility lens, this is clearly the right thing to do there.”
Farley noted that during the council’s town hall meeting regarding the city’s affordable housing crisis at the Schenectady Boys & Girls Club on Dec. 1, that residents were sounding the alarm regarding the scarcity of housing in the city.
“If the city is going to be made whole and residents who are members of pretty vulnerable populations are going to be in their homes and the property stays on the city tax roll, I don’t think anything is perfect, but not just my opinion but the research will show that’s clearly the right decision to make,” Farley said.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the city has a past practice of not selling property back to a homeowner who has defaulted and gone into foreclosure, but that the proposed sales would direct the properties to family members who would potentially be able to pay city property taxes.
“These are hardship cases where there are stories behind it, where we’re foreclosing and selling properties,” he said. “I don’t want to be in the real estate business. So any time we can turn these over and get them back on the tax rolls and get them privately-owned, that’s our goal. It’s not a perfect process. We want people to pay their taxes.”
During Monday’s meeting, the council did not pass the proposed sale of 405 Eleventh St. for $26,148, 874 Emmett St. for $55,324, 1005 Congress St. for $25,777 or 1038 Glenwood Blvd. for $35,500, with the latter proposed sale including a clause requiring that the purchaser pay $500 at closing for building, electrical, plumbing and other applicable permits and that the property be completely rehabilitated within six months of the purchase.
Polimeni said on Tuesday that he wants to see the council adopt a foreclosed property sale policy before he would vote for any future land deals.
“It’s not that I don’t have a heart, we have to do what’s in the best interest of the city and for every single taxpayer and the city’s finances,” he said. “Of course I have a heart. I don’t want anybody evicted from their home. But the reality is we all have a duty to pay our taxes.”