Affordable housing is a tough enough nut to crack as is, but events hundreds of miles removed from the Adirondacks can precipitate unexpected headwinds.
In 2015, Hennepin County in Minnesota seized a condominium for $15,000 worth of back taxes and associated costs. The county then sold the property at a tax sale for $40,000.
The previous owner sued, arguing that the county’s $25,000 profit constituted an illegal taking, and that the money rightfully belonged to her.
The case bounced along through the judicial system until on May 25, when in Tyler v. Hennepin County, the Supreme Court agreed that the profits indeed belonged to the former owner.
It was, said Nicole Justice Green, a heart-stopping moment for the Essex County Land Bank, which is counting on tax foreclosures to power a promising avenue of affordable housing.
Green is executive director of PRIDE of Ticonderoga, which is administering the Essex County Land Bank. She said the high court left the details to the states, and the New York Assembly almost slapped a moratorium on foreclosure sales until the issue could be sorted out — just as the land bank has its sights set on seven affordable homes it hopes to create over the next 24 months. (Unlike the Hennepin County situation, land banks do not flip properties for profit.)
But the clock expired before the measure passed, leaving land banks free to “proceed cautiously” for now, Green said. Between now and the next legislative session, Green said she hopes a land-bank exemption can be incorporated into any new law.
Speaking of foreclosures, the annual Essex County tax auction — traditionally a celebration of bottom feeders, low-end landlords and people hoping to get something for nothing, or at least very little — is set for June 21. (View the list of foreclosures here)
The sale also shines a spotlight on the many zombie homes across the Adirondacks and raises questions of how they came to be that way and how they might have been saved.
Whatever the path, the foreclosure sale is often a home’s last gasp before it becomes too far gone and rots in place, a sorry end to what could have been a viable home.
Given soaring home prices (see this week’s installment of Taking Stock) taking a flier on a foreclosure home might seem tempting, but often buyers underestimate the costs of rehabbing and wind up walking away — and the house winds up right back in foreclosure.
Among the dozens of foreclosed properties in Essex is a sorry looking four-bedroom, three bath house in Lewis that was headed to auction until it was pulled out on behalf of the land bank.
It’s near county offices and the Elizabethtown hospital, and Green said she can see it one day being sold to a government or health-care worker.
This first appeared in a short-term newsletter “Taking Stock of Housing,” a special series from Adirondack Explorer. Click here to sign up.
Photo at top: Real estate agent Amy Shalton of Jay created housing out of an Amish-style shed that her family converted into a home for vacationers and visiting family. A year after it was built, it was appraised for $175,000. Photo by Mike Lynch