East Buffalo homeowners — and would-be homeowners — will be the biggest beneficiaries of $50 million in state money announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul to help residents and address historic inequities after the May 14 massacre at Tops Markets store on Jefferson Avenue.
The total includes $34.5 million earmarked specifically to help homeowners pay delinquent taxes and fees and make emergency or major repairs like replacing a roof, while providing grants of up to $30,000 to help residents who want to buy a house.
“We’re investing in the people, the physical community, their ability to make sure they can make their payments as we go through tough times here,” Hochul said in announcing the application process during a recent visit to Buffalo. “… We’re building the streets and giving people that sense of refreshment in this community, which is long overdue.”
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So how does this work? What do residents have to do to get this help?
These programs are for residents of the following zip codes: 14204, 14206, 14208, 14209, 14210, 14211, 14212, 14214 and 14215.
Homeowners must live in their properties to qualify. This includes homeowners who live in a multi-unit home. The home must be the main home.
Those interested in applying can do so from Monday.
To help people navigate the application process, 211 WNY acts as a clearinghouse.
“We’re the go-to point for information about the programs,” said Dawn Vanderkooi, 211 WNY’s director of contact center services.
People can call 211 or text their zip code to 898211 for information. Vanderkooi said last week that 211 has already been flooded with phone calls from people interested in getting help.
Also, beginning this week, representatives from participating organizations will be on hand – from 4 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday at the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library. Branch, 1324 Jefferson Ave.– to help people register in person.
Here is a guide to the help that is being made available.
Help with taxes, delinquent fees
The effort includes $20 million set aside to help homeowners who are behind on their water bills, taxes, sewer charges and other user fees. The goal is to avoid foreclosures.
“We expect to have a lot of applications … A lot of people are behind on their taxes,” said Keisha Williams, executive director of the Western New York Law Center, which administers these grants. “This is a big step in the right direction. We all know the history of redlining, the lack of access here on the East Side, the fact that many people on the East Side were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. And if we have a recession on the horizon, I think trying to prevent homelessness will obviously pay off.”
Who is eligible? Owners of the nine zip codes that make up East Buffalo. You must provide proof of ownership and primary residence.
What can it be used for? For overdue arrears of water, sewer, user fees and school and property taxes.
Quantity? Up to $50,000. Payments will be made directly to the entity to which it is owed.
requirements? The grant requires the owner to remain in the home without selling or refinancing the home for five years.
For more information: Email BEHAF@wnylc.net or visit the center on the second floor of 37 Franklin St.
Help for emergency home repairs
There is also $10 million available to help homeowners with emergency repairs. This includes repairs to address code violations, as well as major projects such as roof or plumbing repairs. PUSH Buffalo, Broadway-Fillmore (formerly Broadway-Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Services), NeighborWorks Community Partners, Heart of the City and Community Action Organization of WNY will take on the projects.
All five organizations have already stepped in to help lower-income homeowners with repairs. In some cases, the groups already have waiting lists, but will accept new applicants from the target neighborhoods. The additional money from the state will expand the number of projects they can take on. Also, some homeowners who were previously ineligible because they were behind on taxes and fees can now get that help through this program, which would open the door to getting home repair help.
Who is eligible? Applicants must earn less than 90% of the area median income. They also cannot have more than $15,000 in liquid assets.
What kind of projects can it be used for? Repairs could include those for health and safety reasons and general system upgrades, including replacing systems, to meet codes and extend the life of the property. Awards will be based on actual repair needs.
Requirement: The owners sign an agreement that they will remain in the property for 10 years, at which time the full award will be forgiven.
$4.5 million is available to help people buy their first homes. Lenders participating in the programs are Premium Mortgage, M&T Bank and First Priority Mortgage.
Who is eligible? Applicants must have a family income equal to or less than 60% of the area median income. They must also live in one of the nine zip codes in East Buffalo.
What can it be used for? Applicants can use the grant to help them purchase a single-family home, condo or manufactured home anywhere in New York State. The grant can be used to cover the cost of the down payment, closing costs and, in some cases, a one-time payment for primary mortgage insurance.
Requirement: Owners must sign a 10-year lease, which is waived after that period.
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