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Queens Chronicle

Residents say city undervaluing homes

Some Howard Beach residents say their houses are worth much more

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Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 10:57 am, Thu May 1, 2014.

At least two homeowners in Howard Beach are appealing to the city to value their homes at what they believe they should be worth.

They say their homes were worth far more before Hurricane Sandy devastated the neighborhood, and were not substantially damaged by the storm and thus should be worth close to what they had been.

Antoinette Simione says her father’s house on 91st Street was valued at $106,000 when they met with Build it Back a few weeks ago.

“Even the person who took care of us [at Build it Back] said there had to be some kind of mistake,” she said.

Simione asked what could be done and Build it Back suggested getting the house reappraised, which she did. The real estate agent who appraised it said it was likely worth as much as $550,000. In documentation she gave to Build it Back, Simione said it had been worth more than $400,000 before the storm.

The same problem is befalling Vito Chillemi, who lives further south on 91st Street.

“They offer $200,000 for my home,” he said. “I paid $550,000 before Sandy hit. Right there, it should tell you it’s undervalued.”

Chillemi said his house was severely damaged by Sandy’s storm surge and it cost almost $200,000 to make all the repairs. He submitted bills to Build it Back to be reimbursed, but has not seen any money yet.

“I think that’s kind of ridiculous,” Chillemi said. “They said they would fill in my basement and raise the entire house seven feet. I’d be the highest house on the block.”

Besides that, Build it Back told him he would have to vacate the home while it was being raised — at his own cost — for six weeks.

“Six weeks might be six months, maybe even a year,” Chillemi said. “We’re 18 months removed from Sandy and we’re still talking about this.”

The issue of home values post-Sandy is not a new one, but in many cases since the storm, residents have complained that their homes were priced too high, causing them to pay higher property taxes on homes that were damaged in the storm and, in some case, inhabitable.

Last year, the city valued the homes based on research done before Sandy. Residents had to appeal their home values directly to the Department of Finance to get them reappraised.

A source with the Department of Finance said the problem is fixable and the city would look at the homes that are said to be undervalued.

The source suggested the problem is a “side effect” of the city trying to correct last year’s issue of valuing storm-damaged homes at pre-Sandy levels.

However, some have noted that the values of homes have gone down in the neighborhood due to the effects of Sandy.

And the state is mulling legislation aimed at restoring a 6 percent property tax cap that under current law would be eliminated when substantial improvements are made to homes — a problem befalling at least 1,500 Sandy-affected homeowners.

Meanwhile, Chillemi said the city has told him there will be an appeals process that he can take part in and that the city will release some of the reimbursement money he’s been waiting for. But he’s skeptical.

“Is that going to be happen? Probably not,” Chillemi said.

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