Land Bank Sells 400th Property, Continues to Put Vacant and Abandoned Properties Back into Use

Jan 17, 2017

Greater Syracuse Land Bank Executive Director Katelyn Wright gives a presentation at the land bank's annual meeting.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank marked a milestone just in time for its annual meeting Tuesday.  The organization closed on its 400th sale last week to a city employee who’s promised to live there for five years.  Land Bank Executive Director Katelyn Wright says the home is on Oakley Drive in the Valley section…

"In this case, it's a young man,  and  it's going to be his first home," Wright said.  "He put in an offer through our Home Ownership Choice program.  His dad owns a construction business, so he'll have lots of help with the renovations that are needed."

Wright says it’s just one example of the land bank’s efforts to get vacant and abandoned properties back into productive use.  She feels after acquiring more than 1,200 properties over the past three years, putting 400 back on the market is a good ratio.

"To have sold a third of what we've taken in is exceeding our expectations in terms of how quickly we can get them back on the tax rolls," Wright said.  "That's about $15 million of assessed value that wasn't paying taxes, and now it's back on the tax rolls paying taxes, so we're awfully excited about that."

Left to right, Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon, Common Councilor Nader Maroun, and retired city Deputy Finance Commissioner Sheldon Ashkin chat prior to the meeting.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

In fact, the properties generate $720,000 dollars in property taxes annually.  Wright says the secondary benefit is long-term neighborhood stability.  While owner-occupied homes are an ideal catalyst, she says responsible landlords can also play a role.

"A lot of people in Syracuse are renters, so we do try to sell to quality landlords as well so we can improve the rental housing that's available," Wright said.  "About two-thirds of our properties are sold to landlords.  We screen them to make sure if they are not local, they must have a local property manager, they have to have a good track record with code enforcement, and keeping up on their taxes, obviously.  We have a minimum renovation spec that we attach  to each property.  They have to promise to meet those minimum standards.  If they exceed them, all the better."

Attendees look over the annual report.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Wright says those renovations have also poured more than $15 million into the local economy.  The land bank also has the resources to take down the most run-down properties.  73 were demolished in 2016, for a total of 169.  

In the coming year, Wright says they plan to introduce a pilot program to address lead paint hazards in the homes they sell.  Plus, they’ll work with the Town of DeWitt to deal with zombie properties ignored by banks. 

"[It will be] another acquisition pipeline so we can intervene in more abandoned properties, and help more of them get back into productive use."

Wright says that will complement the other properties they’re securing and selling outside the city, including in East Syracuse and Baldwinsville.  

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News