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Thread: Housing in The Falls getting worse

  1. #1
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    Housing in The Falls getting worse

    Rough shape

    Oversupply of housing noted as ‘key problem’ in master plan

    By Denise Jewell
    Niagara Gazette

    NIAGARA FALLS — Gloria Sylvester watched as a fire swept through a vacant two-story house across from her home on Niagara Avenue earlier this month.

    The flames whipped at a house nearby where residents had to be evacuated. It was the second fire in the building this summer.

    “It’s been empty for years,” said Sylvester, as she watched firefighters from her front porch. “Somebody moved in once and moved out the same day.”

    Vacant houses are plaguing Niagara Falls neighborhoods.

    In large swaths of the Falls —especially streets in the center of the city and near industrial or commercial areas — homes left empty as the city’s population and economy have declined are burdening the city’s resources and deteriorating neighborhoods.

    Houses in Niagara Falls are, in general, in rougher shape than other areas of the state.

    The statistics are stark, according to the U.S. Census.

    n The percentage of vacant housing units in Niagara Falls is higher than the rest of the country. In some depressed areas of the city in the South End or near Highland Avenue, more than a quarter of the homes are vacant.

    n Although Niagara Falls housing prices are much lower than other areas of the state, a lower percentage of Niagara Falls residents own the homes they live in compared to the entire state.

    n 95 percent of the houses in Niagara Falls were built before 1980, compared to 85 percent statewide and 67 percent across the nation. Homes built before 1980 are more likely to have lead-based paint or other structural problems that need expensive repairs.

    n While still a slim number, a higher percentage of people in the city live without complete kitchen facilities or telephone service than in either New York state or the United States.

    “It’s a symptomatic problem, because housing problems result from other problems,” said John Drake, executive director of Center City Neighborhood Development Corp., which runs the city’s largest housing rehabilitation program. “It reflects the decline of Niagara Falls and the incomes in Niagara Falls. If we had a growing population and a healthy economy, we’d have a very small housing problem.”

    The city’s own master plan cites the city’s oversupply of housing as a key problem in Niagara Falls. “Population decline, suburban flight and a decrease in family size,” the 2004 report states, have all contributed to a city where 13 percent of the 27,837 housing units are vacant.

    The master plan — written by city planners and stakeholders as a map to revitalizing the city — also states that the Falls has “no incentive for the repair and upgrading of rental units and many homes are abandoned.”

    The cost of maintaining those vacant homes often falls on the city, which has paid $1.37 million this year to demolish 50 vacant buildings and $280,671 on teams to clean up abandoned properties.

    Mayor Vince Anello and the City Council also approved borrowing an additional $200,000 to demolish vacant structures in the city in emergencies. They hope that amount will get them through the end of the year.

    On Niagara Avenue, where fire ripped through a vacant house twice this summer, the city finally had to pay $35,000 to tear down the burnt structure in an emergency demolition.

    Next month, dozens of properties that have fallen behind in taxes will be auctioned off by the city.

    A domino effect

    Vacant homes strain neighborhoods where residents are struggling to maintain their homes and retain housing values.

    Linda Clark knows that struggle.

    Clark’s two-story Cleveland Avenue house has been in her family for 40 years. Her front lawn is adorned with flags and ceramic leprechauns. She mows her lawn and has covered her large porch windows with shear plastic to make it more energy efficient. Clark has also tapped into a grant program run by Center City Neighborhood Development to upgrade the roof, siding and electrical work in her home.

    But she worries about the impact of vacant houses and rental units on her neighborhood, where the majority of homeowners still maintain their properties.

    A few blocks west, the boarded up windows of dilapidated houses have become more frequent. The city tore down an asbestos-laded home on her block this summer.

    “I like taking care of my property,” Clark said. “I can’t stand it when you see these houses.”

    The effects of vacant homes reaches far beyond the cost to demolish the structures.

    A citywide housing conditions survey completed in 2004 found large sections of the city near Highland Avenue, the South End and center city where more than 75 percent of the housing is substandard.

    “Vacant, abandoned and boarded up houses have a detrimental effect on a neighborhood in several ways. It decreases the value of people’s assets, their houses. It makes it harder for them to sell if they want to move. It gives them less incentives to fix it up because they know the value of their housing is dropping,” Drake said. “It gives them less value as a rental property. It’s harder to rent, harder to get good tenants. So in general, it just leads to further and further decline.”

    A financial consultant, Ed Markus of Aramark Consulting, told the Niagara Falls Water Board earlier this month that a higher-than-expected drop in residential water consumption this year was due to an increase in the number of boarded-up homes where water had been shut off.

    Some of those houses, Markus said, are held by speculators who expect property values in the Falls to rise.

    “People are buying up houses as investments, basically boarding them up for a few years anticipating the value going up,” Markus said.

    Jobs at root of problem

    If there is going to be a resurgence in Niagara Falls housing, advocates say, it will take a boon in the city’s economy to spur the type of new housing that would attract new residents and grow the city’s residential tax base.

    Housing advocates like Drake believe that housing has languished for years as jobs have dried up and residents have moved away.

    “What you’re treating is a problem that is actually a symptom of economic decline,” Drake said.

    The question, then, is whether the city needs new jobs to attract residents or new housing to cater to workers.

    “It’s the chicken or the egg, but in this city, I know the answer. The answer is jobs,” Niagara Falls Neighborhood Housing Services Executive Director Larry Krizan said. “If you don’t provide economic development in the form of jobs and attractive nightlife and shopping opportunities, nobody wants to live here. Jobs come first.”

    More than three years after it opened, the Seneca Niagara Casino remains a glittering hope that at least some of the 1,400 new employees on the site will want to live in Niagara Falls.

    About a mile away, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center presents another potential supplier of new Niagara Falls residents.

    Robert Antonucci, project administrator for the city’s Department of Community Development, said city officials are working to facilitate new housing construction in areas near the Seneca Niagara Casino.

    “Is the market here right now for new housing?” Antonucci said. “That hasn’t been answered.”

    For two years, the city has been pursuing private developers to build new market-rate housing in the center of the city to serve an increasing number of hospital and casino employees who may want to live near work.

    While details are scarce, the plan could entail tearing down rows of houses near Niagara Street and the casino to produce a shovel-ready location for new townhouses or other housing. Mayor Vince Anello has said he has been negotiating with two developers to build on the site.

    Krizan believes the project could bridge a disconnect between the types of urban houses the city has and the types homes people are seeking.

    “Frankly, Niagara Falls doesn’t need housing, because we have a 13 percent vacancy,” Krizan said. “But we need new middle class housing, because we don’t have that kind of housing to offer. You know, Cayuga Island and DeVeaux don’t have high vacancy rates. Not anymore.”

    Contact Denise Jewell

    at 282-2311, ext. 2245.

  2. #2
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    REMODELING: Homeowners like Linda Clark work to stabilize their neighborhoods

    Linda Clark, 48, was facing thousands of dollars of repairs to her two-story home on Cleveland Avenue.

    The single-family house needed electrical work that hadn’t been kept up to code. Clark needed to replace the roof and exchange wooden shingles for vinyl siding. But the school bus supervisor had just been laid off and she feared she couldn’t afford the repairs.

    Clark’s dilemma is one facing hundreds of homeowners in Niagara Falls who are struggling to maintain their homes as houses nearby deteriorate.

    She has watched the impact of boarded up Main Street stores and vacant houses spread through the years toward her neighborhood.

    While many of the homes on Clark’s Cleveland Avenue block are occupied by homeowners who care for their properties, houses to the west are in visibly worse condition just a block away. To the east, across Hyde Park, property conditions have remained stable.

    “Our street at the end down near 22nd is basically the borderline right now. It used to be 18th Street,” Clark said. “That’s the unfortunate thing. I always think of it like a cancer. It started spreading way down Main Street. It started coming down 11th Street, 13th Street, 18th Street. Now it’s down at 22nd.”

    One of five children, Clark moved into the house 40 years ago with her family. She wants to stay in Niagara Falls and recently started a new job as a city dispatcher.

    City records show the home was built in 1935 and is assessed at $39,000. When Clark needed to make the repairs last year, she worried about how she would scrape the money together just to fix her roof.

    That’s when Clark found Center City Neighborhood Development’s housing rehabilitation program.

    The non-profit organization pumped more than $20,000 into the narrow house decorated with green leprechauns and American flags. Contractors ripped off the wooden siding and replaced it with grayish green vinyl siding.

    David Soles, project manager for Center City, describes the ideal projects for Center City as people like Clark, who want to live in their homes and maintain them.

    “We’re working with houses that are essentially online, habitable, functional, that need general upgrades instead of full-scale upgrades,” Soles said.

    Although her income was about a third of what it had been when she received a grant and low-interest loan from Center City, she would have qualified for the program before she lost her job.

    “I’ve been here 40 years and my family’s here,” Clark said. “I don’t anticipate ever moving. I like the city of Niagara Falls. It has just gotten so decaying down. Hopefully, something like Center City, with grants and everything, hopefully some of these houses will get fixed up.”

    Contact Denise Jewell at 282-2311, Ext. 2245.

    - - - - - - - - - --

    (This is my block they are talking about this ladies house that is across the street from me)

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    DAY 2: A tale of two houses

    A lot with 6,800 square feet, big enough to accommodate two houses in some parts of the city.

    A driveway with a 2-car garage, vinyl siding and a place in a neighborhood that still watches out for its own.

    So why has this two-family house on Welch Avenue sat on the market since the beginning of August, priced at $25,000 and drawing only one brief showing?

    Part of the reason is its previous owner, one of the many long-time residents in the neighborhood who aged in their house and likely lack the income to keep it up to date.

    Part of the reason has to do with what keeps a lot of houses in the region from attracting young buyers with enthusiasm and income — a lack of steady jobs with family-supporting salaries.

    But real estate agents working in Niagara Falls say there are also a number of unique factors that can create a sizable barrier in the minds of anybody looking for a house in the city limits, no matter how inexpensive it may be compared to other areas.

    “If the price is right, everything can be sold ... there are a lot of houses that could be good buys for someone with the right mindset,” said Mary Ann Zahradnik, an agent with Lewiston’s Hunt Real Estate office. “But so many people in the city lack the money to cover all the closing costs, let alone complete all the work.”

    The 1,700-square-foot house on Welch Avenue, built in 1930, isn’t a prime example of an undiscovered gem. One step onto the slanted wooden porch reveals that it probably needs replacing, or at least structural supports and a re-painting.

    The inside, Zahradnik said, “needs work in every single room,” and the lock on the front door is so old that it refused to open on a recent afternoon. Despite its problems, however, Zahradnik said an inspection by a structural engineer found the house’s foundation to be intact — “It really is a handyman’s special,” she said.

    But any potential buyer would almost certainly have to pay cash, Zahradnik said, as most banks wouldn’t offer a mortgage for the property. And they’d have to pay about $1,700 in taxes every year on the property, which is assessed at $45,000.

    “With our economy the way it is, with older people no longer working and young people trying to find good jobs ... it’s so rare, really, for a buyer to have all the closing costs and savings on hand,” said David Stefik, who has worked in real estate for 16 years at the firm his father, Robert M. Stefik, founded nearly 90 years ago.

    Stefik added that a number of national and local first-time homebuyer programs offer help to buyers looking at rehabilitating or simply living in the city. But without a solid job for two years, low debt totals and some savings on hand, there is only so much a buyer can qualify for.

    Head east across the city — under the I-190 overpass, south on Military Road for a minute and then onto 87th Street — and Zahradnik has another two-family, 1,700-square-foot house for sale, built 10 years earlier than the Welch Avenue site and with almost all of the same basic features that show up on a multiple listing service.

    The difference is that this home is listed at $89,900 and has received a lot of attention since investors bought it as a project last February. The refinished hardwood floors shine in the sunlight, new copper plumbing and electrical wires run through the house, and nearly every room has received some updating.

    It has still taken four or five open houses to garner real interest, Zahradnik said, but she had a second showing for a couple scheduled last week. People in the housing market ask some of the same questions at each showing in the city — about taxes, about the neighborhood and schools, and another point they phrase in a variety of ways.

    “Niagara Falls is just getting a reputation, and it keeps going down, and down, and down,” Zahradnik said. “For some houses, it probably keeps them from getting the attention they deserve.”

    Stefik said he doesn’t hear an “Oh, Niagara Falls” reaction from most buyers. They have the same concerns as most buyers — how long has a property been listed, who were the last owners and the like — and some find great opportunities in city limits.

    “Certain parts of the city, definitely, have really turned things around,” Stefik said. “Streets like Park Place have some really great houses at value prices, and there are the apartments on Cedar Avenue ... getting investors in to fix up.”

    But for every person who buys or invests in the city, more likely head to developing areas with lower taxes, like Wheatfield or Lewiston. Zahradnik said for younger buyers, especially, grant programs that cover down payments, closing costs or renovation could be a deal-maker.

    “I sold one young man, a construction worker, a house in the city that he fixed up the way he wanted it, and he and his family love it now,” she said. “It can be a tough sell, but I know there are houses out there like that one.”

    Contact Kevin Purdy at 693-1000 ext. 107

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    a ghost town, though I wish otherwise
    It's ALL about money. The only reason N.Falls moved beyond a ramshackle tourist village was cheap electricity. The cheap electricty is gone now (thank you, Robert Moses the King of New York City) . It will continue to shrink until it reaches the ramshackle tourist village stage.

    This applies to the entire Buffalo/Niagara Falls area - when we get to the sustainable base, we'll see what we can make of this region. Another 15-20 years is my hope.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edisonic
    It's ALL about money. The only reason N.Falls moved beyond a ramshackle tourist village was cheap electricity. The cheap electricty is gone now (thank you, Robert Moses the King of New York City) . It will continue to shrink until it reaches the ramshackle tourist village stage.

    This applies to the entire Buffalo/Niagara Falls area - when we get to the sustainable base, we'll see what we can make of this region. Another 15-20 years is my hope.
    Possibly the next Camden, New Jersey?

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    DAY 3: Stabilizing neighborhoods

    Millions of public dollars will be spent in the next three years on Niagara Falls housing

    By Denise Jewell
    Niagara Gazette

    Audrey Kurtis held up an empty plastic frosting can in front of a dozen students and explained how it could be used to save receipts to keep track of household spending.

    “Anybody that smokes cigarettes spends $2,000 a year for something that goes up in smoke,” Kurtis said. “Fifty cents a day for coffee is $200 a year.”

    This is education for first-time home buyers in Niagara Falls.

    The six-week course teaches clients at the Carolyn Van Schaik Home Ownership Center the basics of saving money, repairing credit and buying a house.

    The course is one of a handful of programs geared at mending a serious housing problem in the city: The percentage of Niagara Falls residents who own the homes they live in is well below state and national averages.

    Students in the class get 1-inch thick red books titled “Realizing the American Dream.” For many in the class, owning a home has long been a dream. For some, it still seems like a lifetime away from reality.

    Kurtis, a family life program educator from Cornell University Cooperative Extension, teaches a session on basic budgeting.

    “Are you talking about reality or what we want?” one skeptical classmate in the back of the room asked Kurtis when she asked them to write down what they envision for the future. Kurtis also asked them to outline their financial goals and estimate how much time it would take.

    “I think you probably are all working on the down payment on a new house,” said Kurtis, a soft-spoken teacher with short blond hair and round glasses who separated dozens of worksheets for the students in manilla folders. “That’s why you’re here.”

    The home ownership center also links its clients to closing-cost grants and other housing assistance programs in Niagara Falls geared toward helping people buy and maintain their homes.

    Three organizations — Center City Neighborhood Development, Niagara Falls Neighborhood Housing Services and Highland Community Revitalization Committee — have joined forces with the city’s Community Development Department to directly address the housing needs in Niagara Falls.

    Other programs — including a rental rehabilitation program recently approved by the city’s NFC Development Corp. — are also working to address the condition of housing in Niagara Falls.

    New housing would be funded through public dollars

    Public officials are also working on housing plans that would address the lack of private-sector investment into building new housing in Niagara Falls.

    The city’s banking arm, NFC Development Corp., has created a new program that would use an initial $270,000 toward helping to rehabilitate private rental units in downtown Niagara Falls between Niagara Street and Ferry Avenue. The program would provide up to $15,000 for each unit.

    The program’s target area would overlap a preliminary proposal to encourage a private developer to build new townhouses or condominiums near the Seneca Niagara Casino. While few details of the proposal have been released, Mayor Vince Anello has said he has been negotiating with two private developers about building in downtown Niagara Falls.

    “We know if we can encourage market rate housing for downtown, it will be a step in the right direction, because that’s one way that we can help stabilization,” Anello said.

    Niagara Falls officials are also considering using $225,000 of the city’s U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding toward a proposal by LMK Realty to build single family homes near 93rd Street and Frontier Avenue.

    The largest housing proposal on the books in Niagara Falls is completely overseen by a public agency. The Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s $80 million plan to build 282 mixed-income housing units to replace the center Court public housing complex will be financed through low-interest bonds from Niagara County, the city’s share of casino revenue, private investments and a $20 million HOPE VI grant from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development.

    Under the proposal, the housing authority would build the bulk of the housing units on the city of the existing Center Court complex. New homes would also be built in LaSalle.

    While the HOPE VI project has been hailed by advocates as a key to revitalizing public housing, local landlords have expressed concerned that the proposal will negatively impact private rental units by pulling tenants into newer public housing.

    “We’re putting up units at $200,000 for poor people and you wonder what’s wrong?” asked Ken Hamilton, a Niagara Falls citizen who has spoken out against the project. “If there’s a glut, why extend the glut?”

    Housing Authority officials contend that the actual cost of each of the 282 units is much lower than that cost, while additional money for the project would be used to build new infrastructure like streets.

    Money not enough

    With the federal HOPE VI grant, millions of federal and local dollars are slated to be spent on public and private housing in Niagara Falls during the next three years. Next year, the city plans to use $1.58 million of its federal Community Development money to supplement housing rehabilitation in targeted areas of the Falls.

    But those that run the programs say the money does not stretch far enough.

    “We could have $20 million and we still would not have enough,” said Robert Antonucci, project administrator for the city’s Department of Community Development.

    The programs are limited by rehabilitation costs that reach up to $25,000 a house. Homes that need asbestos or lead paint abatement can cost up to $75,000 — a cost that is most cases is well beyond the value of the house.

    As a result, the programs focus on stabilizing neighborhoods by improving individual houses.

    John Drake, executive director of Center City Neighborhood Development Corp., oversees a housing program in Niagara Falls that has invested $3.26 million in Niagara Falls housing since 2002. The program provides grants and low-interest loans to homeowners to address basic code and structural defects. Center City also rents apartments directly to residents and provides assistance to landlords to renovate units.

    Between July 2005 and June 2006, Center City spent $1.12 million to rehabilitate 28 houses.

    “We’re talking 30 units a year. Now, there are 8,000 units in our geographic boundaries,” Drake said. “Housing rehabilitations cannot solve all the programs. Hopefully, you encourage some private rehabilitation from people who aren’t eligible. Once in a while, we’ll get into clusters where we’ll have five or six homes.”

    ‘Stars are aligned’

    While housing in Niagara Falls is marked by stark statistics, that also brings benefits to the residents that are here.

    Krizan believes a combination of cheap housing, cheap mortgages and housing programs in Niagara Falls means the “stars are aligned.”

    “Everybody knows Niagara Falls is a distressed city, but one benefit of that is that housing is affordable or cheap,” Krizan said. “You know that if you go to San Diego, you have to buy a house for $600,000, or Boston, $350,000. When I tell people you can buy a decent house for $45,000, they look at me as if I was from Mars.”

    That means that people who can’t afford to buy a home in other areas of the state and even Western New York can purchase a decent home in the Falls.

    That’s why Home Ownership Center Administrator Claudia Miller believes it is so crucial for the Falls to teach renters how to be homeowners.

    “We have some great old houses with really good bones that need some tender loving care,” Miller said.

    Rebuilding housing

    Here is a glance at upcoming housing proposals for Niagara Falls.


    n WHAT: The Niagara Falls Housing Authority has proposed building 282 new housing units to replace the Center Court public housing complex. The $80 million project would be supplemented by a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOPE VI program.

    n WHERE: New public housing units would replace Center Court. New homes would also be built in LaSalle under the proposal.

    n LATEST: The Housing Authority received news last month that it had won the federal grant.

    n UP NEXT: The authority will spend the next year preparing to begin construction, which officials hope will begin in 2007.


    n WHAT: Norstar Development has a $10 million proposal to tear down 198 vacant low-income Unity Park apartments and replace them with 40 townhouse units. The site is currently owned by Empire State Development Corp. after the state agency foreclosed on the subsidized housing complex in 2003.

    n WHERE: The complex is located on Ninth Street.

    n LATEST: Norstar has lined up financing from the state and tax breaks from the city, but has not received approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    n UP NEXT: Officials are waiting for a determination from HUD.


    n WHAT: The city’s Department of Community Development has proposed using $225,000 from its 2007 budget to subsidize a proposal by LMK Realty to build new single family homes.

    n WHERE: The houses are slated to be built near 93rd Street and Frontier Avenue, according to the Department of Community Development.

    n LATEST: The department is holding a 30-day comment period on its budget.

    n UP NEXT: The budget must be approved by the Niagara Falls City Council.


    n WHAT: Hanarahan Real Estate Inc. of Lewiston has proposed building 13 new apartments of condominium buildings on land that is currently owned by the city.

    n WHERE: The land is located between Buffalo Avenue and the Robert Moses Parkway near the Michael C. O’Laughlin Municipal Water Plant.

    n LATEST: The city has approved selling the 3.5-acre parcel to the developer.

    n UP NEXT: Site plans have been submitted to the city’s Planning Department, but have not been reviewed by the Planning Board.


    n WHAT: Mayor Vince Anello has said he is negotiating with two developers to build townhouses or other market-rate housing near the Seneca Niagara Casino.

    n WHERE: The targeted spots would be between Niagara Street, Ferry Avenue, Fourth Street and 10th Street.

    n LATEST: Officials have said the proposal is still being discussed.

    n UP NEXT: Few details have been released, but the plan could entail tearing down homes in the area

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    DAY 3: Teaching renters how to become owners

    Claudia Miller is one of a handful of people helping to show first-time home buyers in Niagara Falls what to do

    By Denise Jewell
    Niagara Gazette

    Claudia Miller is the administrator for the city’s one-stop resource program to help low- and moderate-income families buy homes.

    Miller sat down with the Gazette to talk about buying a home, clearing up credit errors and the key to turning around housing in Niagara Falls.

    Q: What do you offer at the Carolyn Van Schaik Home Ownership Center?

    A: The home ownership center is basically designed to get people of low and moderate income into their own homes. It consists of primarily first-time home buyer education. Credit counseling is also a great deal of what we do here.

    A lot of our clients have never, ever thought of being homeowners and certainly never dreamed — knowing that they had credit issues and low income — never dreamed that they could work with someone to overcome all of that.

    I’ve been here since February of 2005. I have clients that I started working with when I first came on board that are now closing or searching for homes, and I love it when I get the phone call that says, “I’m ready. I’m ready.”

    Q: You teach a six-week class for first-time home buyers. What does it entail?

    A: It covers everything from the 10 steps to home ownership to all of the players. ...

    I tell them: You’re the customer, and even though you never thought you’d get here, and you’re taking advantage of a first-time home buyer education program and first-time homeowner mortgage products from the bank and closing cost assistance grants that are available through us and the other neighborhood development agencies in the city, you’re the customer. And everyone of these people is putting food on their table that you’re paying for. So remember that and get what you want. Make sure you’re getting the service you deserve and make sure that they’re talking to you, communicating with you, and we’re there for you if people aren’t.

    Q: What do you think will turn the city’s housing around?

    A: I guess we need to say that the key to neighborhood revitalization is home ownership. We know that, and that we have great houses here. With the shrinking population, sure we have a lot of houses and the demolition can go on forever. But we have some great old houses with really good bones that need some tender loving care. ...

    The same time they’re applying for their closing-cost grants, they can apply for up to $25,000 in home rehab money to bring the house up to code, get a new roof, replace the windows. So the house is revitalized. Someone owns it. They’re going to take care of it. They’re going to love it. And if you drive though any of these neighborhoods, you can pick out the houses that have been rehabbed through one of our agencies.

    Q: What’s the transformation from when people come in to when they’re at the point where they are ready to buy a house?

    A: So many of them come in just totally intimidated by the process and absolutely convinced that it’s going to never happen for them. Sometimes you’re third-generation, fourth generation in public housing. Nobody in your family has ever owned. You’re the first one. Or maybe you have such a moderate income and you’ve had credit issues that you think that you’re in this home forever and ever.

    So we teach people about repairing their credit. It’s such a huge issue. People are victims of predators, of ignorance. Parents don’t teach children about credit it seems. And predators are people like the cell phone companies and stuff like that that just change the rules. People don’t read contracts close enough. So they’ve got all this indebtedness. They’re getting collection calls. And you tell them they can own a house, and it just doesn’t equate. ...

    The other thing is that 80 percent of the credit reports we run have at least one error in them and sometimes several. That’s not an official figure. That’s my estimation, but it’s what I see.

    It’s just a stigma. I think it goes with the city in many ways. The average median income here is well below the median income. So our people are really poor. ...

    When you can walk somebody through this process and sometimes they’re a year, maybe even two years out, because of a recent bankruptcy, or there is just huge indebtedness that needs to be paid down, you take them through it and you watch them learn to budget and how to plan, do financial planning, how to get those debts paid off. We teach them how to enter into pay-off agreements, all kinds of things that they can do, settlements, and get that cleared up.

    Then they can go to a bank and they’ve got their certificate, and they can show how far they’ve come.

    How to get help

    Here is information about housing programs in Niagara Falls.

    Carolyn Van Schaik Home Ownership Center

    n WHAT: Resource center for home buyers

    n WHERE: Targets Niagara Falls

    n PROGRAMS: First-time home buyer education; one-on-one credit counseling; reverse mortgage counseling; foreclosure intervention and counseling

    n CONTACT: (716) 286-8831

    Center City Neighborhood Development Corp.

    n WHAT: Non-profit housing organization

    n WHERE: Targets the center of the city, between Whirlpool Street and Hyde Park Boulevard from the railroad junction to areas of Buffalo and Pine avenues

    n PROGRAMS: Provides up to $25,000 in grants and loans to rehabilitate owner-occupied housing for low- and moderate-income families; help for rental rehabilitation and first-time home buyers; rents apartments

    n CONTACT: (716) 282-3738

    Highland Community Revitalization Committee

    n WHAT: Non-profit organization working to redevelop the community near Highland Avenue

    n WHERE: Targets areas of Highland and DeVeaux

    n PROGRAMS: Provides grants up to $7,500 for emergency repairs to correct code violations; serves as the designated fair housing agency for the city to help people who feel they have been discriminated against in housing; provides grants for new home construction

    n CONTACT: (716) 282-2325

    Niagara Falls Neighborhood Housing Services

    n WHAT: Non-profit housing organization

    n WHERE: Targets areas primarily between Porter Road and 39th Street between Pine and Buffalo avenues

    n PROGRAMS: Provides up to $25,000 in grants and loans to rehabilitate owner-occupied housing for low- and moderate-income families; also provides help for rental rehabilitation and first-time home buyers; operates low-income rental units in the city

    n CONTACT: (716) 285-7778

  9. #9
    Unregistered Dr Funky's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Niagara Falls

    NORMA HIGGS: A ‘trashy’ tour of the Falls

    Back to the neighborhoods this week. I was fortunate to have a tour of the “east side” section of our city. I actually found out why it is called the “east side” when I always felt it is really the “South End.”

    Back before Echota and LaSalle were made a part of the city, when workers were installing sewer and water lines in the area just west of Hyde Park Boulevard (which was then “Sugar Street”), they referred to working on the “east side.” This was the “eastern” border of the city at the time and the term just stuck. I learned a lot about this area that afternoon.

    So take the drive with me and my tour guide, Chester Bernat. Chester tried to convince me he was 82 years old. I was doubtful but he did know a lot about the history of his area so I had to believe him.

    The real reason for this drive was he wanted to show me how things had changed with the “big corporations” and their attitude about keeping up their property. I met Chester through the East Side Block Club where he has been secretary. This block club is active in their neighborhood and meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the Polish Nook, 2242 Cudaback Ave. They were chosen as the “Block Club of the Year” by the Niagara Falls Block Club Council in 2006.

    We drove over to 24th Street and Allen Avenue (this is part of a trucking company I guess) where we saw high grass and junk in the yard. Turning onto Buffalo Avenue we noted this same condition in what used to be parking lots for Olin. If you look you can see this has turned into a contractors’ dumping ground with leftover sidewalk material, etc. lying about.

    What about 1920 Buffalo Ave. (Andor Group, LLC), an abandoned building with garbage all around? I bet where they are on Upper Mountain Road in Lockport does not look like this. More dumping under the Portage Road underpass. Then we went to an area behind MacKenna Avenue and 19th Street, which was all overgrown.

    Back to Allen Avenue — this time to 22nd Street where the OCAW Hall needs some sprucing up around their building. Down Buffalo Avenue to Hyde Park with tall overgrowth along the DuPont and Olin fences. Traveling along Hyde Park Boulevard following Gill Creek, between Falls and Niagara streets. The creek is filled with growth and is not accessible as a waterfront. Maybe some Greenway Commission funding could clean this up and open it up again. Why not?

    During this drive we noted that work had stopped at the old Speer Carbon on Packard Road where B&T Developers had started a demolition. We noticed a lack of activity but hear through the grapevine that a development is in the works. Hats off to Durez, Alside Prop., and North American Hoganas on Packard Road who are good corporate citizens with well maintained properties which is more than I can say about property directly west of them which appears to be owned by Occidental.

    I wanted to go along 56th Street from Pine to Buffalo avenues as I had heard from someone that it was not “looking good.” Near Simmons and Girard it was all overgrown with high grass and weeds.

    We headed back up Buffalo to Allen avenues and 27th Street and wondered why these corporations who had polluted us and walked away could not be held responsible for clean up. Olin’s old parking lot is a mess and has turned into a dumping ground as a result of this neglect.

    A fence adjacent to DuPont’s former parking lot on Allen Avenue is broken and bent over and Chester kept saying “this is only one mile from the Falls,” he said. “This would not be allowed in Canada.”

    This spring the Niagara Beautification Commission Beautify Niagara volunteers picked up trash along Buffalo Avenue. Volunteers should not have to clean up this property. The owners should clean up this property.

    On the good side — hats off to Olin and their plans to add warehouse operations on Buffalo Avenue near 27th Street. Hopefully they will address the parking lot issue during this period. Also, Praxair, Inc. is planning an expansion on Royal Avenue. This type of news is always good news. And thanks to Chester for the guided tour, his thoughts and history of the “east side.”

    Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council. Her columns appear Wednesday’s in the Gazette.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - --

    This lady is a *******, they call it the "East Side" because kids from the East Side of Buffalo came in and took everything over

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    They were calling it the East side in 1965 when I visited my grandparents there.
    I made a lot of money and spent most of it on booze, fast cars and loose women. I blew the rest.

  11. #11
    Unregistered Dr Funky's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Niagara Falls
    Quote Originally Posted by Northshore
    They were calling it the East side in 1965 when I visited my grandparents there.

    Way back then? but its not even in the East, its the south end...

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