Troy Candidate Making Public City Info Available Via Internet
TROY, N.Y. (9/8/15) -- The City of Troy is now accepting sealed bids on more than 120 foreclosed properties. One City Council candidate is using his Internet savvy to better publicize these opportunities to the general public.
Anasha Cummings, 26, has released an interactive Google Map (posted at the end of this release) that allows users to find the properties by location and type (i.e. residential, commercial properties, vacant land). Clicking the pins that mark the properties on the map provides more information and photos collected from several sources.
"I don't think a legal ad in the newspaper and a PDF on a website is a good way to browse for properties you might want to buy," Cummings said. "There are a number of Internet tools available now to make it easy and effective to market these properties to those searching online."
As an at-large Troy City Council candidate, Cummnings' top campaign priority is "Making public information available to the public through the Internet." While that goal sounds like something one might have expected to hear from a candidate in the early 1990s, the City of Troy is woefully behind the times with respect to new communication tools and technology, Cummings said, and it's costing the city in money, time and missed opportunities.
HOW IT WORKS NOW v. HOW IT SHOULD WORK
Once a property owner fails to pay their taxes for three years, the City initiates a foreclosure process. If the taxes remain unpaid, the city seizes the property through foreclosure and then each quarter attempts to resell these properties through a sealed bid process. The properties often sell for bargain prices.
Critics of the process claim that political insiders have an unfair advantage in these auctions, but Cummings says the biggest problem is that more people don't find out when these sales are occurring or how to participate.
Currently, an interested property buyer has to first know when a list of foreclosed properties becomes available through the city assessor's office. That information is publicized through legal notices in the Troy Record and is posted as a link on the city website.
"Unless you're vigilant about checking the classified ads and the city website, it's easy to miss the public notices," Cummings said. "And even if you find the announcements, the list provided by the city isn't a particularly useful tool for property shopping because it only contains the address, property type and tax map ID number -- no photos, no maps, no details."
On weekdays, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, interested parties can visit the city assessor's office to view a handmade book of photocopied records pertaining to the foreclosed properties for sale. All of that information is already entered into digital databases, which could be easily imported into software to make the purchasing process more accessible and save considerable staff time.
"The process of buying a house has been transformed over the past few years through websites like Zillow.com and Trulia.com," said Cummings. "Our government is still trying to sell our properties with coded numbers on a spreadsheet."
THE BEST OF THE BUNCH
About half the properties (56) on the sale list are vacant lots, 50 are residential and 15 are commercial. While some buildings on the list are very attractive to many buyers, other properties are appealing only to the most daring of investors. There are some beautiful historic buildings that have been on the list for a while, such as the 1894 Haskell School in Lansingburgh and the St. Jean de Baptiste church near Washington Park.
"These are beautiful buildings that need someone a little crazy, in a good way, to buy them," Cummings said of the school and church. "Obviously the efforts to sell them so far haven't worked. We need to cast a wider net to catch that special investor and put these great buildings back into the right hands."
FAILSAFES PROTECT FROM ABSENTEE LANDLORDS AND GREEDY HOUSE FLIPPERS
Using the Internet to more effectively promote these foreclosure sales to a larger pool of potential investors does not mean the city will end up with more absentee landlords from New York City, nor will it automatically place these properties into the hands of greedy house flippers, Cummings noted, because the committee that reviews the bids has the discretion to make recommendations based on what it believes will be the greatest benefit to the city. The committee does not always recommend sales to the highest bidder and it can reject all bids if necessary.
SEE ANASHA'S MAP
To view Anasha Cummings' clickable Google Map of Troy Foreclosure Properties, visit:
Sealed bids must be delivered to the City Assessor's Office by Oct. 7, 2015.
ABOUT ANASHA CUMMINGS
Anasha Cummings is a Democratic candidate for Troy City Council, at-large. Five candidates are running for three at-large seats in the Democratic primary this Thursday, Sept. 10. Cummings is also running as an endorsed candidate in the Working Families Party primary, in which four candidates are running for three at-large seats. He is also asking members of the Green Party to write him in as their candidate during Thursday's primary.
Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Anasha Cummings moved to Troy to study Design, Innovation, and Society at RPI. During his time at RPI, he became deeply involved in local sustainability and neighborhood organizing. He has worked as an intern for Congressman Paul Tonko, a VISTA sustainability coordinator for Troy Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (TRIP), and as a project coordinator with Empire Solar.
His website is http://AnashaEst.com