Mayor Walsh Reports “Significant and Sustained Decline” in Vacant Housing in Syracuse

Syracuse, N.Y. – Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced that the City of Syracuse is experiencing significant and sustained declines in vacant housing. Since 2017, the City has seen the number of vacant residential properties drop by 12.3%.

The data from the City’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development (NBD) covers apartments and multiple residences, as well as single and multi-family dwellings. The Department estimates that in 2015, there were 1,886 vacant residential properties in the City. That number has dropped by nearly 400, representing a total decline in vacant residential structures of nearly 21% during the five year period to date.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh

“Vacant properties are like a cancer to a neighborhood. When one property goes empty on a street, it affects multiple properties around it.  I’ve seen it on my own street,” said Mayor Walsh. “Our team is working hard to turn back the blight that results from vacancy, and cutting the number of empty properties is one important part of that work.”

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank, created by the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County in 2012, is charged with returning vacant, under-utilized and tax delinquent properties to productive use.  Since its founding, the Land Bank has successfully transitioned 708 properties from tax delinquency to new owners.

While the Land Bank offers a consistent strategy to return previously delinquent properties to productive use, properties which are vacant and tax-current require new interventions. With funds from the Office of the New York State Attorney General through the Vacant and Zombie Property Remediation Initiative, the City has been able to implement programs like the Vacant Property Task Force and Blight Busting, which have proven critical to continuing the City’s success in reducing the number of vacant properties, administered in partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

Using the expanded “cut and clean” approach, the Department has strategically selected zombie properties for Blight Busting projects, which address exterior code violations only. The costs of such projects are then assessed to the owner of record and, if unpaid, are levied in the following year’s property taxes. Funds collected from this effort will replenish the repair fund over time. Violations have been addressed at 12 properties to date and more than 15 projects are expected this summer. The “threat” of Blight Busting has resulted in the improvement of an additional 63 properties – word is getting out that the City will garner compliance.

The City’s Interdepartmental Vacant Property Taskforce includes staff from NBD, Division of Code Enforcement (DOCE), the Law Department, and Syracuse Police and Fire Department. The taskforce has case managed the process of over 70 demolitions. Furthermore, the recent launch of the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication (BAA) expedites the process of addressing code violations that so negatively impact families and neighborhoods. The implementation of the BAA adds another tool that can be used in the ongoing effort to address the critical and complex challenge of vacancy.   Vacancy remains a pressing challenge, but significant progress has been made with the help of the City’s partners and the hard work of city residents and employees, alike.