PATERSON, NJ – By early next year, the city should begin using $5.7 million in federal funding to buy the first of 33 flood-prone properties in the 1st Ward, officials said.

The City Council on October 23 approved a $40,000 contract with Realty Investment Economics of Westwood to appraise the properties, which include 12 vacant lots and several others that are boarded up and unoccupied.

Sign Up for E-News

Paterson has targeted 141 properties on the city’s Northside for flood acquisition and so far has secured money for 42 of them.  In addition to the $5.7 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the city also is getting $2.1 million from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to buy out nine additional properties.

“If you’re looking to provide relief for families in flood-prone areas, you should be buying houses, not vacant lots,’’ said Councilman Kenneth Morris. “There are no families living in vacant lots.’’

“I don’t know why we’re even considering vacant lots at this point, given that they’re in the flood zone and they’re worth little or nothing.’’

But Business Administrator Charles Thomas and Council President Anthony Davis, who represents the 1st Ward, said the city went through an extensive review process, including holding community meetings, in order to pick the first set of sites for buyouts.

“These people are ready to sell their places,’’ said Davis. “We can’t belabor this any longer.’’

On average, the city has enough money to spend about $170,000 for each of the 33 properties being bought with FEMA money. But the actual prices will be lower than that because in some cases there will be demolition costs. Under the program, all the land bought will be left as open space, possibly as some sort of park, officials said.

During the discussion on the appraisal contract, Councilman Rigo Rodriguez said he was concerned that Paterson will end up paying more for the properties than they are worth. “My fear is that we’re getting into a conundrum that we can’t get out of,’’ Rodriguez said.

Eventually, both Morris and Rodriguez voted in favor of the appraisal contract. Under the agreement, Realty Investment will charge $595 to appraise one-family homes, $695 for two-family houses, $725 for building with three or more apartments and $450 for vacant lots.

Realty’s bid for one-family homes actually was almost twice as high of that of Tony Kamand Realty of Toms River, which proposed $300 for those houses. But Kamand wanted $1,000 to appraise vacant properties. Thomas said Realty Investment’s bid turned out to be the lowest once all the prices were calculated.