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Vacant houses, boarded windows amid 160 Buffalo houses in flipping scheme

Drive around Buffalo, and you're bound to pass a house flipped through Kuwaiti real estate broker AbdulAziz HouHou. It's hard to avoid them, especially on the city's East Side.

There's one at 1516 Broadway, at the corner of Wick Street, where Karen Scott and Muriel Evans were recently waiting for a bus.

Five or six years ago, the green wood frame was a nice house, the women recalled.

But no more. For years now, it's been run-down, boarded up, and vacant – except, the women say, "for the crackheads that go there to sleep."

The Broadway property is one of about 160 HouHou flipped in Buffalo from 2013 to 2016. About half ended up in foreclosure. Over a dozen became so dilapidated they were demolished. Many remain vacant and boarded up.

A court in Kuwait last year sentenced HouHou to 10 years in prison and fined him $16 million for money laundering and defrauding his fellow Kuwaitis on the real estate deals in Buffalo as well as Rochester, Detroit, Cleveland, Florida and North Carolina.

[RELATED: How a Kuwaiti man's Ponzi scheme left a trail of blight in Buffalo]

HouHou's organization brokered the sale of 1516 Broadway in January 2015 to a Kuwaiti investor. Then HouHou's property management office, America Real Estate, in Rochester, managed the property. The Kuwaiti investor resold the dilapidated property in February 2018 to two Brooklyn buyers for $18,000.

The only improvement visible from the past year is that bushes in front of the house were cut down, the women said. However, the new owner recently applied for city permits to begin repair work.

It can be scary at the bus stop, said Scott, 59. "If you catch the bus at 6:30 a.m., it's dark, You don't know who's going to come out of the houses. They don't sleep."

Hirschbeck Street

The Erie County Department of Health has posted a sign on the front door of 130 Hirschbeck St. that says the residence is unfit for occupancy. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Around the corner, on Hirschbeck Street, are three properties flipped to other Kuwaitis, and managed by HouHou's America Real Estate.

The house at 38 Hirschbeck is gone. It was demolished.

There's been some cleanup work done at 80 Hirschbeck, where old furniture and rugs were recently lying in front of the property.

Down the street at 130 Hirschbeck a sign posted by the Erie County Department of Health bans occupancy. HouHou purchased the house in April 2015 from MDB Property Fund NY for $17,900. A county health inspector visited 130 Hirschbeck in January 2017. The basement was flooded with sewage. There were rodent droppings in the kitchen. The tenant was using the stove and an electric space heater for warmth because the furnace wasn't working, health department records state.

HouHou kept the house, real estate records show, until the city foreclosed on the property for unpaid taxes and sold it in January 2018 to a Buffalo woman, Uzma Riaz, for $22,000. In September 2018, when the house became vacant, the Department of Health ruled the house unfit for occupancy. Riaz said the house is now being rehabbed by her brother, who will be living there once it is fixed up.

43 Goembel Ave.

This vacant house at 43 Goembel was flipped to a Kuwaiti investor in 2015, with one of HouHou's companies acting as broker. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Continue driving and you'll come across another HouHou house at 43 Goembel Ave., off Walden. There are no doors or windows. It is pretty much a shell.

"It's been that way since I moved here in October," said a neighbor, Anesia Huffman, 28, who lives nearby with her four young children.

After buying the house for $2,500 in August 2014, owner Glebova Realty Group flipped the house two days later to a Kuwaiti investor for $43,000, with HouHou's firm serving as broker. HouHou's company also provided property management services, according to city and county records.

The Kuwaiti investor sold the house for $6,000 in April 2018 to buyers from Brooklyn, records show.

30 Zelmer St.

Keep driving and you'll see a boarded-up house at 30 Zelmer St., near Schiller Park.

HouHou's firm brokered the house to a Kuwaiti investor, and assigned it to its property management agency, in 2014. The vacant house has grass growing from its porch roof.

There is a Buffalo City Court notice on the front door, from 2018, that lists housing violations at the property, including citations for the roof and drainage, overhand extensions, foundation walls, weeds and handrails.

Around the corner, HouHou bought the house at 46 Sattler Ave. for $24,500 in 2014, then sold it a year later to a Kuwaiti investor, who recently sold the property for $30,000 to Jamh WNY, a Buffalo-based investment company.

A mail carrier said no one has lived there for four years or so, but that he's heard some banging inside recently.

Neighbors hope the house gets fixed up soon, but until that happens, one neighbor said, "It's used by neighborhood cats."

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