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Ogdensburg sells final home, is ready to wash hands of Neighborhood Stabilization Program

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OGDENSBURG — The city is selling the last house standing in its Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

The City Council on Monday night approved a sale agreement for 113 Adams Ave. to an undisclosed buyer for $39,500.

Because the house was renovated using federal funds, it could be sold only to buyers who meet the program’s income requirements.

The house is partially renovated; work remains on the second floor. It also lacks a water heater and a furnace, said Andrea L. Smith, the city’s director of planning and development.

“There are funds available to assist a purchaser via Affordable Housing Corporation grants,” she said. “The grants have a Feb. 1 deadline for an amount up to $40,000 per property.”

Though the buyer is required to have a mortgage to pay 80 percent of the purchase price, the AHC grant could cover the remaining 20 percent as a down payment.

Ms. Smith said the city would close out its Neighborhood Stabilization Program in March, washing its hands of a program rife with pitfalls and struggles with difficult regulations. The program was much maligned by City Council members for rules limiting the selection of properties, the scope of repairs and the pool of eligible buyers.

The program properties were sold on a lottery basis — names were drawn in random order to establish priority buyers. The undisclosed buyer of 113 Adams St. was fourth on the city’s list, but was offered the property after a previous buyer chose not to sign a purchase-and-sale agreement.

Patti Simmons, Heuvelton, said she did not want to sign the agreement unless the city could guarantee her the funds to finish rehabilitating the house.

“I was buyer number two or three. ... I only asked them to put in there what they promised me,” she said. “There was no promise that the money would be there to finish the house, and there was no guarantee that I would be able to back out and get my deposit back.”

Ms. Smith said the agreement would have allowed Ms. Simmons to back out of the deal with her deposit intact.

“If any applicant going forward decided to back out, they would get their $2,000 back,” Ms. Smith said. “The AHC program requires a buyer and a signed sale agreement. We couldn’t put the grant money into the language of the agreement itself.”

Ms. Simmons and her attorney weren’t convinced.

“I had two days to figure this out,” she said. “I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t risk my family. I’ll be looking somewhere outside the city limits because I can’t put myself through something like that again.”

Though all six council members in attendance supported the Adams Street sale, the agreement almost wasn’t approved. Councilwoman Jennifer Stevenson originally tried to abstain because one of her real estate partners was working with the buyer.

“This is a for-sale-by-owner property,” Ms. Smith said. “There shouldn’t be a conflict of interest.”

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program, a vestige of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was designed to renovate homes using grant money, then sell them at reduced cost to low- and moderate-income families.

The other remaining Neighborhood Stabilization Program house, at 505 New York Ave., was demolished this month because it was considered too damaged to preserve.

Two other program houses, at 819 Knox St. and 2 Grove St., have been sold.

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