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Amsterdam agency seeks unpaid taxes, fees

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - Updated: 11:30 AM

By ALISSA SCOTT

alissa.scott@recordernews.com

The Amsterdam Urban Renewal Agency has filed a complaint against the owner of a Florida Avenue property, claiming more than $125,000 is owed in unpaid mortgages, taxes and user fees.

The foreclosure complaint was filed in July against Ana Luisa Lorena Diana, of 1936 State Highway 5S, and 12 "John Does," potential past tenants of 47 Florida Ave., who are unknown to the URA.

Diana entered a contract with the URA to purchase the four-apartment building in June 2010 as part of the Home Program, a result of the state's National Affordable Housing Act.

Diana and her husband Enrique ("Henry") owned the former Amsterdam Armory on the South Side in the 1990s.

The Home Program provides grants to rehabilitate housing units that will be occupied by income-qualified families. The URA loaned Diana about $25,000 and payments have not been made, consultant Nick Zabawsky said.

He added that the last time he checked, she also had not been paying property taxes.

"The agency is foreclosing due to noncompliance of program requirements and failure to pay property taxes and make loan payments as required," Zabawsky said.

As stipulated in their agreement, Diana was required to provide documents indicating the tenants and their incomes, and the amount of rent charged, however Zabawsky said of the 12 suspected to have lived there, she only documented two.

Every year, the URA is responsible for communicating that information to the state, to comply with the program's specifications.

Right now, Zabawsky said the URA believes there are two families living in the four-family building.

Because Diana did not abide by her contract, she now owes the URA about $104,000 based on a mortgage agreement and about $28,000 in property taxes and user fees, including a 3 percent interest rate.

"Just because we're a government agency, people still have to meet their legal obligations," Zabawsky said. "This is taxpayer money. We have to take responsibility to protect taxpayer money."

Under the complaint, the URA is seeking to foreclose and auction off the property.

"We have to enforce the agreements that are recorded against the property," Zabawsky said. "So, whoever took over the property would still be subject to the Home Program regulations."

If a buyer wanted to purchase the property without being tied down to the program, he could pay the URA the $100,000 grant now associated with the property.

"The Urban Renewal Agency will bid in to make sure that the regulations are adhered to or the other option is we get the $100,000 back," Zabawsky said. "[If] some new buyer wants to come in and give us $100,000 cash and be relieved of the Home Program regulations, we can do that."

Zabawsky said of 50 to 60 buildings provided funding under the Home Program in the past 10 years, this is the only case in which there has been such an extreme case of noncompliance.

"This is extremely rare," Zabawsky said. "This is a lot of money."

Usually, he said, property rehabilitation under the program is very successful.

"You look at the before and after photos of some of these properties and you say, 'Wow, you took a crappy, old house and made it into a nice looking place,'" Zabawsky said. "We're really proud of that."

Zabawsky said the URA has probably completed more than $1 million worth of improvements to homes in the city under the program.

Attempts to retrieve comment from Diana were unsuccessful and Zabawsky said the URA has also not been in contact with her.

URA attorney Gerard DeCusatis forwarded all questions to Zabawsky.

     

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