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Foreclosure Auction Begins in Buffalo

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The City of Buffalo began a massive three-day house foreclosure sale Monday at the Buffalo Convention Center. It is designed to crack down on delinquent bill payers. The city says some of the homes are on the auction block because residents owe thousands of dollars in water bills and user fees. But a West Side community group is gearing up to fight City Hall's housing sale.

People United For Sustainable Housing -- or PUSH for short -- says the three day housing auction will have catastrophic consequences for many home owners. PUSH's Eric Walker says it will displace too many city residents who can not afford to pay their water and garbage bills.

"You have people in marginal areas of the city who just aren't able to afford the fees that are being assessed," Walker said. "Since the city has privatized its water system, the fee has continued to increase, which is making it harder for working class people to make payments in a timely fashion."

More than 3,000 homes were initially slated to be auctioned off this week. Some residents are being given another chance. But according to PUSH, 25 percent of the homes are owner occupied. They say that would leave about 750 families homeless. But Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello says the city has to stop residents from receiving free services.

"I wish people would keep in mind that 95 percent of property owners ultimately pay their taxes," Masiello said. "Eighty-five percent pay their water bills. I think it's blatantly unfair that we allow people to go years without paying their water bills and user fees."

But PUSH says the city needs to take a hard look at how recent increases in water rates impact working class and low-income city residents.