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Bringing new life to boarded-up homes

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Buffalo: Bringing new life to boarded-up homes
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A grant recently awarded to an organization in Niagara Falls will help fund the renovation of vacant homes throughout the city. YNN's Antoinette DelBel has more on the Isaiah 61 Project and how it will provide job opportunities while revitalizing the community.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – Boarded up homes are a common sight in Niagara Falls.
Mayor Paul Dyster said right now, there are more houses in the city than people living in them - something he said is a result of abandonment and the dwindling population.

"The population in the early 60s was over 100,000,” said Dyster. “Now it's 51,000. You're going to have a lot of vacant buildings."

"Every day a vacant sits vacant, it deteriorates, it attracts crime, it gets more and more costly to rehabilitate because it's sitting," said Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo.

City leaders said Niagara Falls has nearly 30,000 homes. More than 5,000 are vacant.

"Our percentages of vacant homes are higher than the county, higher than the state and it's a big issue," said Piccirillo.

Partnered with Orleans/Niagara BOCES and a new, non-profit organization, the Isaiah 61 Project, the city is now taking a proactive approach to fixing the problem.

Instead of tearing down vacant homes or auctioning them off, the Isaiah 61 Project will buy the city-owned homes for as little as $500, renovate them and put them back on the tax roll.

"Once these homes have been revitalized and rehabbed, what we're going to do is put them back on the market to low income to moderate income families who otherwise might not be able to afford a home of their own," said Jim Haid, the project coordinator of the Isaiah 61 Project.

The John R. Oishei Foundation recently awarded the Isaiah 61 Project a $200,000 grant, which will be spread out over a three year period.

The money will be used to fund an on-the-job classroom. The students will be unemployed city residents, between 18 to 60 years old, who will be able to learn the basics of construction.

"They're going to be able to go to local contractors and say, 'I have experience renovating a home. I have experience with plumbing or electrical.' Real life skills," said Piccirillo.

And the first house on the list - a two-story home on Whitney Avenue. Haid said nearly a dozen people will be putting their skills to use rehabbing the single-family home as early as next week.

"They are going to drywall; they're going to put new floors in; they're going to insulate it, put new windows in, new countertops, new kitchen cabinets, new bath, new plumbing, new electrical - I mean the whole nine yards," said Haid.

Community leaders say their hope is to beautify the neighborhood one home at a time.

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