Many of Syracuse's dilapidated homes will soon be getting a facelift. The Syracuse land bank foreclosed on its first properties Wednesday. There are already investors interested in buying. Katie Gibas has the latest.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The owners of nearly 4,000 properties in the City of Syracuse haven't paid their taxes, some in several years. And until now, the city hasn't done anything about it.
"The land bank allows the city to move forward and demand accountability in regard to taxes because now there's a place to place these properties if they go through foreclosure," said Paul Driscoll, Syracuse Neighborhood and Business Development commissioner.
The land bank acquired its first 15 foreclosed properties earlier this week. Last November, 200 foreclosure notices were sent out. Half of those were vacant properties. A quarter were vacant buildings.
Driscoll said, "Increasing our tax revenue for a city like Syracuse is very important. We're facing fiscal crisis in some degree and we need to make sure all of our revenue sources are being maximized."
And there are already investors interested in properties in every quadrant of the city.
"Screening landlords and other potential buyers to make sure they have a good plan for renovating that property and that they have the capacity and financial wherewithal to do so. So they're sustainable projects and they're not rapidly deteriorating again. We want to make sure that these are going to be taken care of for the long-term," said Katelyn Wright, Greater Syracuse Land Bank Executive Director.
Out of the initial 200 properties, 85 were owner-occupied. Fewer than five are still facing foreclosure.
Wright said, "Because the city hasn't been very aggressive on tax collection in the past, people have been allowed to fall rather far behind on their taxes. So neighborhood and business development staff have been going door to door trying to get them to take advantage of free financial counseling services that are available and getting them to talk to local lending institutions about home equity loans and other options to avoid foreclosure."
To date, nearly 1,000 foreclosure notices have been sent out.
It will take about three years to catch up on all the tax delinquent properties. Land bank officials say about half of those owners will pay their taxes. The rest will be transferred to the land bank.
For more information on the land bank, visit syracuse.ny.us.