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Syracuse land bank becomes a land lord

The Syracuse land bank became a land lord this week as part of its work to put more city land on the lax rolls.

The land bank, known formally as the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation, closed on the sale of 17 properties that are vacant or owners were significantly behind on their property taxes.

Most of those are in the valley or Strathmore sections of Syracuse. The agency hired four property management agencies to assess and maintain the properties. Or if there’s someone living in them, to be the land lord. Katelyn Wright of the land bank says tenants will not be evicted.

"I suspect that if their landlords weren’t paying their taxes they probably weren’t adequately maintaining their properties either so we’ll be able to come in and make improvements," she says.

Wright says the land bank’s goal will be to re-sell the properties quickly.

The land bank was formed in 2012 under a new state law. There are more than 3,000 ‘seizable’ properties in Syracuse. If owners pay back taxes, they will get off that list. Foreclosures and transfer of ownership will continue over the next few months. The city council is seizing properties and transferring them in batches.

Councilor Jean Kessner says the council is moving more slowly with occupied homes.

"Give us time to treat people with the respect they deserve," she says. "That we put thought into the fact that we are taking their property. We need to put thought into that."

Kessner says she’s not worried about the land bank becoming a land lord.

"I don’t think it’s what anybody wants and I hope it will be a short, transitional sort of thing," Kessner says. "We have known this from the beginning; we know it’s a practicality and a reality. And the idea is if we have a property and the property is in good enough shape that people can actually live in it, then we want someone to buy it."

WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail
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