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Buffalo pushes back its usual November property auction

Buffalo's Common Council voted Tuesday to push back the usual November tax auction for properties, where taxes haven't been paid. The move comes because so many renters are failing to pay owners.

There's been a rent moratorium since the pandemic heated up more than a year ago, although one federal court recently threw out the Centers for Disease Control moratorium, leading Albany to recently extend it in New York.

The basic issue is that for many landlords, they can't pay their taxes if they aren't receiving any rent, but perhaps they'll have the money by November.

There is assistance for tenants and that money can, in turn, be paid to their landlords. However, Council President Darius Pridgen said sometimes renters still don't pay.

"Unfortunately, it wasn't because they couldn't pay. It was just some of them, they refused to go and get the assistance because they knew that they could just leave when the moratorium is over and that it would be very difficult," he said, "and shame on those tenants who could have gotten assistance, wouldn't go get it and didn't pay their landlords."

Pridgen said buildings can go on the tax auction sale with little owed to the city.

"For $200 worth of back bills over an extended period of time, someone could lose their home. Someone could lose their land, and I just feel we need more time," he said, "and what we have been told is that if we have the auction later, we still would be okay with our budget."

The money paid during the auction goes directly into city coffers and every year, the city budget includes estimated revenue from the auction.

University District Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt supports the delay.

"I learned a lesson from the school zone cameras, because we have to look at how we legislate," Wyatt said. "Buffalo is one of the third-poorest cities in America and we continue to do things that in some cases may not be beneficial for people who are struggling. So this is a piece of legislation, I think it's smart. I think it takes into consideration the struggles of folks and I think in the future we need to continue to do that."

It's not clear when the auction will be held. The replacement date has to be set early enough in the next calendar year for the money to come in during this coming fiscal year.