OSWEGO — Five foreclosed property parcels scattered throughout the city of Oswego have officially been sold to a local developer with the confidence he’ll turn them around in the next year and put them back on the real estate or rental market and municipal tax rolls.
The six-member Oswego Common Council last week unanimously voted to sell properties at 95 W. Eighth St., 285 W. Eighth St., 84 E. Schuyler St., 100 E. Ninth St., and 130 E. Ninth St. to former county legislator and developer Lee Walker for $5,000.
Walker on Wednesday said he made his offer to city officials while looking for his latest “challenge” to recover properties once the occupants have left them for neglect.
“This is what I did for a living my whole life,” he said. “I live here in Oswego and I see houses that are abandoned and closed up I wanted to take up a challenge.”
Asked why blighted properties persist in the city, Walker said a poor economy and an aging population often make it difficult the second generations of families to keep up with parents’ properties after they die.
All but one house sold to Walker was built in 1900, and the 100 E. Ninth St. property was built in 1970, according to county real property tax records. Market values of the parcels range from $20,000 to $55,000, records show.
County real tax records show the five properties declined in sales prices over the course of their life spans, until the city finally assumed ownership in recent years. The West Eighth Street property was sold in 2001 for $55,000, in 2005 for $43,230, and for $23,500 the following year.
“I might try to flip them to sell,” Walker said. “Usually I am a buyer and not a seller if you look to my path that I’ve chosen over the years. Once I get them, I usually keep them.”
The city’s deal with Walker, who has been managing and flipping local properties in his hometown for three decades, is that he will purchase the five blighted properties — two of which have been condemned by the city as dangerous buildings and all of which “require significant financial investment to become habitable” — to rehabilitate them.
“The number one thing is to get these houses back on the tax rolls,” Fifth Ward City Councilor John Gosek said Wednesday. “The second thing is improving the values on people’s properties. When you put one zombie property on a block, it depreciates other people’s properties.”
Gosek said Walker, who manages Oswego College Housing, has strong name credibility among city officials, who said they trust him based on a career’s worth of successful renovation projects throughout Oswego neighborhoods.
“We like a lot of other work he’s been doing around the city, and if we see someone has a good track record they take priority over others,” he said.
In the week and half since Walker acquired the properties from the city, he said his crew has already begun cleaning up the interiors and exteriors.
“We’re not messing around. We’ve already been in there to pick up around the yards and clean up inside some of the debris,” Walker said. “I told (city councilors) to give me one year, but I think we’ll be done sooner than that.”