Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Which Northern City is Selling Homes for $1?

August 27, 2014
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Which Northern City is Selling Homes for $1?
Homes are selling for as low as $1 in Buffalo, N.Y. JasonParis/Flickr Creative Commons
These houses (which need some T.L.C.) have a crazy low price tag.

A pack of gum. A candy bar. Something off of a fast-food menu. That’s about all you can purchase with a dollar.

And although it sounds absurd, in Buffalo, N.Y., you can now get a house for $1. (Yes, you read that right.)

It’s all part of the Urban Homestead program, which is dedicated to preserving houses in Buffalo. Across the city, old homes are being demolished, and this program is working to save them by selling them for a single. All the buyer has to do is prove they have the resources to repair the residence and promise to live in it for at least three years.

Currently, Buffalo has about 4,600 vacant homes and another 1,600 vacant lots. It costs $15,000 to tear down a home – valuable money that could be put back into the house for repairs. On average per year, eight to 10 homes are bought for a dollar, while hundreds remain on the demolition list.

Buffalo isn’t the only community with this type of initiative. Last year, Gary, Ind. launched their Dollar Home with the sale of six houses. In addition, other cities such as Philadelphia and Detroit have similar programs where people can buy homes for very little money.

The downside? Even though a house may only have a price tag of a dollar, the renovations can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

For Creighton Randall who bought a dollar home back in 2008, it’s been a struggle. He’s been working on it off and on for the past six years and doubts that it’s worth the investment he’s put in.

“If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t,” Randall tells Governing. “I should have just bought one of the houses on sale for $13,000 and saved myself a lot of time.”

However, for others, the investment has been worth the hassle. David Torke and Mike Puma have been leading this movement, and their work showcases the positives that arise from it.

Torke bought his first house back in 2006, and since then, has rejuvenated many homes. Where old, falling down homes used to stand on Coe Street, a freshly painted orange Queen Anne and a brown Victorian with a deck and garden have taken their place.

Similar sights can be found around the city where old homes in high crime areas are getting a second life thanks to some fresh paint, gardens and a few jungle gyms.

“We’re reintroducing new life into these properties,” Puma tells Governing. “Not only are you taking a stand against demolition, but you’re taking a stand on what happens in this city.”

And his neighbors can’t help but agree. Kevin Harris lives across the street from the house Puma is currently working on. For him, it’s a welcome sight.

“At one point, I thought they were going to tear that house down,” Harris says. “But they’re really working their butts off over there, and it’s a beautiful thing. I’d rather see that home than an empty lot any day.”

So, the next time you pull that dollar out of your wallet, pause for a moment. It can go a long way in the world. How will you spend it?

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