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Syracuse land bank moves on vacant properties

On Monday, Syracuse will send foreclosure notices to the owners of 200 vacant homes, empty lots and severely tax delinquent residences in selected areas of the city.

Syracuse has not engaged in a formal foreclosure process in over a decade, according to Dan Barnaba, treasurer of the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation, the newly formed non-profit land bank.

"This is going to come as somewhat of a surprise and a shock to some people," he says.

But, he added, the city has tried to warn homeowners ahead of time. Letters about the new policy were mailed to the owners of all the nearly 4,000 seizable properties at the beginning of the month.

Yet to choose properties

The land bank is organized by Syracuse's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, which has yet to determine how the 200 properties that will receive notices will be chosen. City planner Katelyn Wright said the office expects to have a list of addresses by the end of the week, after meeting with community groups.

During Tuesday's meeting with board members of the land bank, Wright explained that after receiving notice of foreclosure, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability predicts that a fewer than half of property owners will pay up.

Six months

For the remaining properties, the foreclosure process will likely take six months. In May, the Syracuse Common Council is expected to vote on whether to transfer the foreclosed properties to the land bank, in order to act as an interim landlord as potential buyers are found.

This is the first wave of foreclosure notices that the office will send. A second round is expected to go out in February, and a third in May.

Syracuse is one of five communities in New York that have been approved to form land banks.

Durrie Lawrence is a reporter for partner station WRVO.

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