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News10NBC investigation into auctions of demolition homes gets city and county to change policy

February 28, 2018 09:54 PM

The City of Rochester and Monroe County are changing the way they auction homes marked for demolition after a week long investigation by News10NBC. 

For a week, News10NBC has been showing you how the city and the county try to auction homes marked for demolition. I've been asking why are they are selling homes the city and towns want to tear down.

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Because of our investigative reporting, the city is changing its policy. 
 
The investigation started with Will Turner. He bought a rundown, foreclosed home on Watkin Terrace at Monroe County's foreclosure auction last September. He says a city inspector later stopped his repairs when he told Turner it was marked for demolition. 
Turner's answer? 

Will Turner: “That's impossible. I just bought it from the county.”
 
Then I met Jimmie Briggs. He bought a foreclosed house on Hudson Avenue at the city's foreclosure auction in November. 
 
Brean: “And somebody from the city comes up and says you need to stop working and they tell you why. What's the reason?”
Briggs: “It's slated for demolition.”
 
I went through hundreds of properties on the county and city auction lists and found two dozen homes marked for demolition. After questioning the city's director of housing and the city's attorney, I finally went to the mayor. The mayor says her team met on this issue Tuesday. 

The mayor says it's possible some demolition homes can be fixed as long as the buyer has proof of money, permits and a work plan. Neither Will Turner nor Jimmie Briggs provided those to the city. 
But the mayor says the city will now identify homes marked for demolition that are beyond repair and remove them from the auction list. 
   
Mayor Lovely Warren, City of Rochester: “We will be taking those out. I really want to thank you for your reporting on this because it allowed us to go back and do some research on our end and make sure we are doing our due diligence on behalf of the citizens as well as on behalf of the neighborhood and doing what's best for the city of Rochester.”
 
Monroe County left it up to the buyers to vet the properties before the auction. But starting now, because of News10NBC's reporting, the county says it is going to clearly identify the properties on its auction list that have homes that are marked for demolition. 

Brean: “What is the county prepared to do about this?” 
Cheryl Dinolfo, Monroe County Executive: “So a couple of things. We’re actually reaching out to town and city partners and asking them to provide the county with a list of properties which are scheduled for demolition in advance of our foreclosure sale.” 
 
The County Executive says those properties will be clearly marked. I told her the city is removing them completely. 

Brean: “Could the county take off those homes from the county list too?”
Cheryl Dinolfo, Monroe County Executive: “Well any property that's actually on the list that that is attached to the actual foreclosure goes through an involved legal process to actually make it on the list. And it’s then submitted to the Legislature. So the county could not take it off the list.” 

The lists include properties where the taxes haven't been paid in two years. The county list gets approved in March. The city's list gets approved in April. The auctions are in September and November. 

Credits

Berkeley Brean

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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