Sunday, January 7, 2018

An Unanticipated Outcome

In October, the Common Council passed a resolution establishing conditions for acquiring property at the tax foreclosure auction that took place on November 4. To prevent people from buying property and warehousing it, a condition of sale would be that the property have a certificate of occupancy and be returned to active use with 24 months of purchase. The resolution didn't address flipping, and it probably should have.

At the auction, the church at 241 Columbia Street, which had been the rented meeting place of the Endless Love Temple, went for the minimum bid: $35,907.09. The vacant lot next to it was purchased by the same person for $6,000, a little more than twice the minimum bid of $2,777.21. The two properties are now being advertised for sale on Trulia, with an asking price of $350,000.


Thanks to KH for bringing this to our attention


  1. If that thing is worth $350K, I will gladly sell out now for $2 million and retire happily ever after.

  2. its worth some money. the lots in hudson are very valuable ---
    each lot is worth no less than 100,000 -- this property and thelot are two lots.

    the land alone is worth 200 k and the building is actually in good condition....

    the good news is that the building and land will be returned to the tax rolls -- and the taxes will help fund the budget of hudson.

    many people in hudson do not like that idea, but life in new york state is really expensive, especially in hudson.

  3. These issues -- that a property bought at auction for $40k can be "flipped" for $350k -- should be top priorities for the City. Warehousing is another. Absentee BnB landlords is another. Substandard housing is another. Property taxes is another. The issues related to housing in Hudson are monumental -- and changing rapidly. Tiffany Hamilton, in her waning days as Mayor, made an effort to confront these questions by establishing a Mayoral Task Force on Housing. It was making good progress until December's deep freeze and the inauguration of the new mayor, Rick Rector. The Task Force has received no word about its next meeting or whether there would be a next meeting. I hope the new mayor recognizes the huge importance housing is to the future of Hudson and acts quickly to continue Mayor Hamilton's major efforts in that regard.

    1. the real problem that no one will face is that the price level in general is stratospheric -- every material to build is sky high and the codes are stringent --so we do not have terrible fires etc.

      life in new york state is really really expensive --

  4. If someone owns property, why should he not be allowed by the City (or anyone) to sell it when he likes, at whatever price he can get?

    Isn't that the definition of "private property?"

    -- Jock Spivy

    1. When it comes to aggressive arbitrage, the question whether it's "allowed" or not glosses over the subtler impacts of land speculation which aren't found in your textbooks.

      We take too much for granted our senses of seemliness and proportion which are learned tacitly for the most part, and through cultural expressions such as literature (think Dickens), or films like "It's a Wonderful Life." These examples serve as guides for what Aristotle called "practical knowledge," which can't really be taught.

      Your textbook definition of "private property" offers no context whatever for what is contextually good - either for the neighborhood or the city as a whole. It side-steps the Aristotelian notion of virtue altogether.

      So while you're probably expecting a socialist's reply, or at least some programmatic response to the notion that reducing property values to market forces alone is entirely appropriate, you couldn't be more wrong.

      Since the time of Edmund Burke's "prudence" and Adam Smith "invisible hand," proponents of private property were forced to grapple with the uglier implications of laissez-faire economics.

      For all I know, this particular example of speculation will be beneficial for the neighborhood and the city, but we're discussing the buyer's motivations, the meanings and implications of which you have reduced to an over-simplified "definition." Sorry, not having it.

      -- TO'C

  5. Jock Spivy, it's because "private property" is an unsustainable concept that cannot be supported by a just society. The market is not a tool of good action or good behavior, and the use of "market value" in rhetorical arguments for human actions only supports unjust actions. Rebecca Wolff

    1. Although here the idea of "good" finds its way back into the conversation, the insertion of the telling buzzword "justice" complicates things unnecessarily.

      What does "justice" mean? And justice for whom?

      If by "justice" we mean some sort of regulated outcome, then this comment belongs to that family of "programmatic" ideas which, though probably well-intentioned, is not necessarily "good."

      Like every such movement since the French Revolution, evoking "justice" through the example of a real estate deal is a well-meaning goal in search of a method. Eventually, in other hands, it becomes a means for fresh corruption.

      Almost a mirror image to the above comment by "Samuel," both are beside the point, and both present different sorts of threats to Aristotle's virtuous habits of the "polis," the city.


    2. There's nothing "rhetorical" about it, Rebecca Wolff.

      Does the seller own the property? Can't he sell it when he wants, and at the price he wants? Is he breaking the law? Does the law say that he needs your approval to sell his house?

      Unheimlich, I too have read Aristotle but I guess I'm too stupid to have any idea as to why Aristotle's ideas apply to the results of tax foreclosure auctions.

      I'm not a lawyer but I think the City of Hudson will have a difficult time drafting a law that will stand up to challenge that says that purchasers of property at city auction can't turn around and sell that property if they want to.

    3. In that case Samuel, your sarcasm notwithstanding, you already know that Aristotle's ideas apply to absolutely everything.

      Moreover, your narrow view of law ("Is he breaking the law?") is an example of the Sophist Lycophron's understanding of law as mere alliance, which Aristotle characterized as "a mutual guarantor of just treatment, but unable to make the citizens good and just" (the latter terms not to be understood as Robespierre and the latest crop of Justice Warriors would use them).

      To stay with the ancients, your ideas which are wholly mechanistic (and anything but rhetorical!) are far more Aristotelian than the those of the above writer, who relies on generalities and vacuous buzzwords to evoke Platonic universals. These seek to legislate virtue who think they know what it is in advance, but they always devolve into incarcerating the transgressors until, in the end, they must turn on one another. Jean Jacques Rousseau is no progeny of Aristotle.

      On the one hand, you're right about challenge for communities like Bedford Falls, in "It's a Wonderful Life," who might have been moved to make laws restricting the likes of Mr. Potter.

      Instead, the people of Bedford Falls never attempt to solve their Potter problem directly. What they remember to do is stick together, by strengthening their concrete ties in the context of a received tradition when faced with Potter's cold, threatening worldview (and it seems your worldview, too, it truly pains me to say).

      If they did want to explore actual formative tools to defy Mr. Potter, then they might have considered zoning regulations. But because zoning statutes can also be used against the weak and vulnerable, like every other possible solution that too would call upon their good character (Aristotle).

      Hudson's Proprietors gave an example of codified norms at their first meeting, when they restricted what any new house could - and could not - look like. Over 200 years later we have the Historic Preservation Commission telling people what they can and can't do to the appearance of their house. If people don't like being told what they can do with their property, then they shouldn't buy here. Caveat emptor.

    4. Huh? What does a movie have to do with the matter at hand?

      Is it legal for whoever bought this building and adjacent lot subsequently to turn around and offer it for sale?

      My guess is that yes, it's legal. Wasn't that Gossips' starting place for this thread -- that perhaps there should be a rule to prevent someone from buying property at city auction and then quickly reselling it?

      That question can become a matter to be decided by the city fathers, or the city council, or the voters, or the courts. But from what I can see right now, whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, the buyer is well within his rights to do as he pleases with his private property.

  6. It is absolutely the new property owners right to sell his newly acquired property when he likes and for how much he wants.

    We do live in a free market. Anyone had the opportunity to attend this auction and make such a purchase themselves.

  7. I would be shocked if the property fetched anywhere near 350K. 150K might be more like it. We shall see. This is an unusual situation since some bidders might not have participated given the desire to defer to the Rev Ed Cross.

  8. If this property sells for $350K to a buyer willing to pay tax based on that assessment, it will benefit those owners already struggling to pay their property taxes in Hudson by broadening the tax base and thus lowering their burden at least a little. The last thing Hudson needs is yet another not for profit removing property from the tax rolls. Too bad the City couldn't forgo the auction and post it on Trulia itself - though in future it might consider establishing significantly higher minimum bids if possible (these two properties are, after all, assessed at $175G aggregate on the 2017 assessment roll). But a sale at $350K would also be a double edged sword, as the property would instantaneously become the go-to comparable for assessors considering the area, and its neighbors would be impacted accordingly.

    And speaking of “justice” (in our society that unfortunately functions based on “private property,” and in a state system that assesses based on purported ACTUAL “market value,” regardless of rhetorical arguments - just focusing on the math and subjective distortions thereof), the City might also start examining apparent inequities in its assessment practices, some of which have persisted through multiple revaluations. If single lots in Hudson, per the comment above, are going for $100,000 (and these two properties together are assessed at $175K), then why is a single family home in good condition on a double lot on the same block as the property in question assessed at about $90,000? If that property were reassessed at "market value" in the upcoming City revaluation based on recent comparable sales (the State-recommended yardstick ostensibly being used elsewhere in Hudson), its assessment, and hence the owner's tax burden absent a reduction in mil rates, would probably at least double. And yet, when the new assessments are issued in 2019, in the event that Hudson’s residential tax base should increase dramatically based on recent sales, will the City and the School District lower their mil rates in proportion? History says no. However, if they are incapable of reducing their expenditures and mil rates, and continue to rely on property taxation to the extent that they do now (a fairly safe bet), then at least applying the same assessment standards uniformly in all areas of Hudson would help spread the property tax burden somewhat more equitably.

    1. here is a point to emphasize.

      hudson is a city with alot of public housing provided at very very low rates. also, the county supplies a huge amount of support to those that cannot afford medical care etc. there are taxi services taking the poor all over the place that cost the social services people 2 million a year.

      hudson is a city that has a disproportionately high amount of low cost housing.

      it just happens that hudson also has new people coming in who cannot afford manhattan or the boroughs and are making their homes here. it is a diverse community of design people and writers -- the creative class-- from the city who like the mix and urban feeling.

      hudson might be perhaps a model of justice for people really.

      so im not sure that putting property on the tax rolls is really a bad thing -- but we are living in the united States --

    2. 1.

      This seems a good breakdown, j kay, with a property returned to the tax rolls as an inadvertent benefit of a flipping which struck some as being distasteful. Fiordiligi's thought probably occurred to several of us as well, that it's "too bad the City couldn't ... post it on Trulia itself."

      My sense of alarm yesterday (above) was reserved for two sets of people who actually have more in common than they'd ever guess.

      First, there was the gentleman who'd forgotten his Aristotle, and who seems to believe that the law by itself, when applied rigorously, is sufficient for the creation of a good society. Aristotle likened this outlook to a Sophist named Lycophron, saying that the approach may be "a mutual guarantor of just treatment, but unable to make the citizens good and just."

      I suggested that commenter watch the 1946 classic "It's a Wonderful Life," in which the people of Bedford Falls overcome a perceived threat to their community posed by Mr. Potter, a magnificently greedy and cold-hearted banker who nevertheless operates within the law. They can't reach for existing laws to protect themselves because the law actually favors Potter, nor do they attempt to legislate away the banking system, or private property. Instead, they solve their Potter problem collectively, through friendship ("philia" in Aristotle, Politics, Book III, Chap. 9).

      Second, we read above some equally unsophisticated assumptions about private property which are, at bottom, socialistic in nature. These too have an equally corrosive effect for the Aristotelian idea of a healthy city.

      For instance, to read above that it's "unfortunate" that our society is based on private property begs the question what the writer has in mind instead? Something along the lines of Venezuela perhaps? Try a Peruvian's views instead, such as the economist Hernando de Soto who preaches practical social justice through the universal acquisition of private property:

    3. 2.

      For me, the larger part of the rot that's eating away at our common heritage (a common heritage which immigrants have always enriched), and which is frequently encountered in hypocritical encomiums to "diversity" and "justice," is the presumed evil of private property.

      This fad is usually coupled with unexamined hopes for some sort of utopian, classless, propertyless state of universal liberation. But totally aside from the impracticality of the belief, and the heart-breaking catalogue of its murderous failures ever since the French Revolution, a closer examination of the psychological operations at work in those who bang on endlessly about "diversity" and "justice" reveals the mental habits of religious practitioners - and not very good ones at that.

      Actually, I'm very supportive of religious practice (if it's not an ersatz religion like antifa [ironically]), and of "virtue" in the manner Aristotle, and "justice" in the manner of a Lincoln interpreting The Declaration, and the "diversity" which underlies E pluribus unum. But when any of these are accompanied by a lack of self-awareness about their own projected universal metaphysics, then we find the beginnings of self-righteousness and bigotry.

      What the two sets of ideological commenters have in common (yesterday I said they mirrored one another) is that both mistakenly accept that a society can flourish among sets of alliances bound merely by treaties and laws. To that common mistaken assumption, thinkers from Aristotle to Frank Capra have warned that neither position can advance the good and the just in a society, while those societies founded on mere alliances and covenants eventually fall apart.

      So for Hudson to be a "model of justice," which is a very attractive idea, its citizens would first have to agree on a common definition of this "justice" at which we're to aim. How can we do that, though, when people seem to be completely ignorant about their own first principles? This begs a further question, when can it be said of any fad that it is "principled"?

    4. @ unheimlich: Sorry if it wasn't clear that the "unfortunately" was intended to be ironic. We live in Hudson rather than Utopia; and with all due respect to Aristotle, Plato, More, Burke, Lycophon and Rousseau (all worthy gentlemen, I'm sure), Hudson has quite enough problems without tackling the abolition of property laws in this country. Its mission, should its elected officials choose to accept it, is to consider the burdens of ALL its constituents in light of its tiny tax base, including property owners in the lower and middle income brackets,many of whom are struggling to keep their homes due in part to the high proportion of Hudson property off the tax rolls. AH advocates seem to forget that the difference between a homeowner and renter is often the fact that the homeowner managed to come up with a down payment, frequently in a very different era than this one, when the property taxes were much lower. Hudson will become a very different community if it is eventually composed of only the wealthy and the poor. And contrary to sentiments expressed by some, there is no entitlement to live in Hudson (or anywhere in the US) - whether by birthright or any other rationale - for anyone. "Justice" for only one constituency is no justice at all.

    5. Fiordiligi, I mistook your irony - a challenge in the circumstances.

      To stick with the ancients, in all due respect (heh) your latest comment is thoroughly Aristotelian. To avoid the pitfalls of oligarchy, which for years in Hudson was the practical consequence of the weighted vote, we've changed the architecture to attain a more equal distribution of justice. As you say, "'justice' for only one constituency is no justice at all." But compared to oligarchy (in Politics, Book III), those who govern in a democracy are just as apt to govern in their own self-interest, or that of a faction, clan, or identity group.

      From among our neighbors we've chosen as representatives on the Common Council, we must hope that each has the wisdom to represent "all" constituents, to quote you again. And we have to have the reason and wisdom to recognize those who do the most good.

      I don't know anything about the City's deliberations over the sale of the church-and-lot, but perhaps it would have been wiser not to sell the two properties at all, not for now anyway. You also looked for better ways to avoid what had transpired, so we agree that circumstance present better and worse choices which good representatives are able to evaluate better than worse ones.

      In order to ask better questions, I'd like to understand why the AH advocates tend to obscure the difference between owners and renters. Speaking as someone who was priced out of somewhere else, I want to plumb this notion that we're entitled to live wherever we wish. I also want to know if such ideas are allied with the utopian, anti-property prejudices I've been hearing from the camouflaged metaphysical types. (Apparently private property isn't "sustainable," whatever that's supposed to mean.)

      First we heard a kind of libertarian, hand-off approach, wherein the market dominates all other considerations within the law. The counter-argument was so unrealistic and programmatic that I liken it to believing in unicorns or Santa Claus. It is moral preening so convinced of its worthiness that it's blind to the harm of the false expectations it sows. Cant becomes a prerequisite to bad planning.

      Instead, to paraphrase your conclusion (via Aristotle), leadership which coordinates the distribution of justice to as many levels as possible is "virtuous," while it's unwise and lacking in virtue to end up like Paris which is presently compromised of the wealthy few and the many (non-French) poor.

      Incidentally, do I remember aright that the mil rate had actually dropped a little in the last reval? Maybe somebody can correct me. I have a lot to ask and say about your first comment, Fiordiligi, but I think I'll stick with philosophy for now.

  9. I absolutely love this conversation. Good to see you back, Jock Spivy! One of the beauties of Hudson, in theory, is that it is small enough to modulate (or moderate?) high principles with low democracy. Hudson's problem (or challenge), at least in my experience, is that it doesn't do democracy very well. Thus, to repeat the hope that I stated in my early comment, I hope Hudson, the community of citizens, can wrestle these questions to the ground in a transparent and inclusive manner. That's where the social justice is: in the mechanisms of self-governance.

  10. There is no affordable housing crisis in Hudson. There is an economic crisis - no jobs, and a cultural crisis - the "historic housing committee" that prevents the old, hideous architectural abominations that pockmark this city from being torn down and replaced with nice cheap condos.

  11. In my view this thread, rather than simply offering diverse community opinions with a goal of arriving at actionable solutions, is a sad representation of why getting anything done in Hudson is extremely difficult. I fear I haven't seen anything here which we all haven't heard before many times over. Grandstanding about entrenched ideologies and personal viewpoints seems to take priority over the issues. And is much easier than doing the hard work that will yield implementable policy solutions to help Hudson's residents I don't see productive debate happening here, or in nearly any online forums where there is zero accountability and much bluster. Going forward, I'm hopeful that a collaborative approach to problem solving will appear in these threads, along with informative subject matter research dispensed with measure of humility.

    1. Achieving "actionable solutions" out of a salad of mere "opinions" is easier said than done.

      It seems to me that so many are so high on self-regarding idealism that it's a matter of public health to return to principles and premises.

      For example, if your idea of "justice" is narrower and more rigid than mine, then it's entirely appropriate for me to inquire and for you to defend it. Perhaps we'll both learn something new.

      If that's not a productive dialogue for you then you're free to ignore it.