City of Syracuse Announces Eleven New Initiatives to Address Housing Stability

Improve Housing Quality, Reduce Evictions, and Connect Residents to Resources to Decrease Transiency

 Syracuse, N.Y. – The City of Syracuse today announced eleven new programs and initiatives to improve housing stability in the community (see “Priority: Housing Stability” document for more information). Over the last year, city divisions including Neighborhood Development, Code Enforcement, the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication, and the Office of Accountability, Performance, and Innovation, with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, have been investigating housing stability in Syracuse to develop solutions and implement initiatives that improve housing quality, reduce evictions, and connect residents with resources.

“City staff has been working diligently with our partners to engage with the community around housing stability, identify the most pressing challenges, and figure out how to ensure our residents have access to safe, healthy, and affordable places to live,” said Mayor Ben Walsh. “From improving employment and educational opportunities, to building stronger neighborhoods, we know that stable housing leads to better outcomes for our constituents and our community.”

“It is exciting to see how the City of Syracuse has applied an innovation approach to develop new ideas aimed at increasing housing stability for residents,” said Stephanie Wade, innovation program lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “We are eager to learn the impact of these ideas as the city tests and adapts them to learn what works.”

“Data show that approximately 25 percent of Syracuse households move at least once a year,” said Adria Finch, the city’s director of innovation. “Frequent forced moves have damaging financial and health impacts on residents and neighborhoods,

Meg O’Connell of the Allyn Family Foundation and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh

especially on school-aged children. The ideas we’re proposing take these effects into consideration and try to prevent them from ever becoming issues for our residents.”

The City of Syracuse, in partnership with Legal Services of Central New York (LSCNY), today hosted a community workshop at the Central New York Community Foundation to present new housing-related programs and initiatives through a series of lightning talks, or two-minute presentations.

Presentations came from a variety of community organizations and included:

  • Healthy Housing 101 J. Omar Sharif, City of Syracuse
  • Bureau of Administrative Adjudication Leah Witmer, City of Syracuse
  • Rental Registry Ken Towsley, City of Syracuse
  • Stabilizing the Private Sector Greg Smith, Smith Housing
  • Vitals and Life Need Assessment Frank Ridzi, Community Foundation
  • Lead Community Organizing Jamie Howley, LSCNY
  • HUD Rental Assistance Monica Brown, Onondaga County DSS
  • Impact Litigation Dennis Kaufman, LSCNY
  • Source of Inclusive Education Sally Santangelo, CNY Fair Housing and Enforcement
  • STIR Crowdfunding Samantha Linnett, City of Syracuse
  • Turbulent Tenancy Evan Weissman, Syracuse University
  • Eviction Prevention Sue McMahon, City of Syracuse

The event also included workshop sessions focused on four topics: tenant organizing and advocacy, landlord resources, source of income protection, and community sharing of housing data. The workshop was a continuation of the policy discussion started when Dr. Matthew Desmond, author of “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City”, visited Syracuse to raise awareness and foster dialogue around the issues of evictions and housing stability in October 2018.

The City’s innovation team (i-team) announced housing stability as its priority area in February 2018. The mayor chose the priority with input from the Common Council, informed by six weeks of public engagement that solicited input from nearly 900 residents.

The Syracuse i-team launched in 2015 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Since then, it has helped make substantial progress on previous focus areas like: improving the city’s water and road infrastructure—filling over 15,000 potholes; more than doubling its speed in resolving requests for repairs from residents; saving over $1.2 million on infrastructure costs; and winning over $750,000 more in state infrastructure grants. Additionally, the team launched the TOP Code Enforcement Program (Tenant, Owner, Proactive) which yielded an 18.2 percentage point increase in code compliance. Nearly 60 percent of violations, including health and safety violations such as heat and water shutoffs, infestations, and chipping lead paint, were successfully resolved by property owners on time.

Click on link Priority: Housing Stability for full chart of housing, and how these initiatives will work together to make an impact on creating a stable environment for housing in the city of Syracuse. 

Priority: Housing Stability

25% of Syracuse residents move at least once a year. Frequent forced moves have damaging financial and health impacts on residents and neighborhoods, especially on school-aged children. Over the past year, various City departments have developed initiatives to start to achieve three specific housing stability goals:

Improve Housing Quality
  • Bureau of Administrative Adjudication (BAA)
  • Proactive Rental Registry Inspections
  • Property Improvement Project Recognition
  • Rent Escrow Account Program (REAP)
Reduce Evictions
  • Eviction Prevention Case Management
  • Startup in Residence (STIR): Crowdfunding for Emergency Housing Expenses
  • Rental Registry and Eviction
Connect Residents with Resources
  • Healthy Housing 101
  • SCSD Healthy Housing Information Campaign
  • Rental Property Grading
  • Tenant Advocacy


Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Teams Program

Now working in more than 20 cities across four countries, the Innovation Teams Program helps cities solve problems in new ways to deliver better results for residents. Bloomberg Philanthropies awards cities multi-year grants to create in-house innovation teams, or “i-teams,” which offer cities a different set of tools and techniques to innovate more effectively and tackle critical challenges—from reducing violent crime to revitalizing neighborhoods to strengthening the growth of small businesses.


Cover Photo caption: J. Omar Sharif, City of Syracuse discussing Healthy Housing 101