Two hundred land owners in Syracuse face the risk of losing their property if they don't pay their taxes. The City of Syracuse sent out the first of many rounds of foreclosure notices earlier this month, looking to collect about $11 million in unpaid taxes. But as our Katie Gibas explains, the city is taking steps to make sure the process will help improve neighborhoods.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- One vacant property can bring down the whole neighborhood.
"It's a blight in the neighborhood. Vacancy issue is a huge issue in not only bringing down the value of our neighborhoods and the incentive to want to buy and invest in those neighborhoods," said Paul Driscoll, the Syracuse Neighborhood and Business Development Commissioner.
Of the 1,800 vacant properties, 600 can be seized for back taxes. Boarded up homes are just one of many properties the City of Syracuse is going after for delinquent taxes.
"The city wants to collect taxes, but it didn't really have a consequence for those who didn't pay taxes because to foreclose without a land bank, the city would have to hold onto that property and incur all the liability and try to maintain it," said Driscoll.
As part of the newly created land bank, if people don't pay their taxes, their property will be seized and repurposed.
"The correlation here is if you're not paying your taxes, you're probably not investing in the property, putting a new roof on or boiler or whatever. There's a high correlation between tax delinquency and abandonment of houses," said Driscoll.
Notices went out earlier this month to about 200 property owners. Some properties, like the Erie Boulevard Bowling Center, owe more than $100,000 in taxes. Others owe as little as $300.
"We anticipate far more than half of the folks on this initial list to pay off their taxes. It just makes economic sense for them to do it otherwise they're losing an asset much more than what's owed to the city," said Driscoll.
Property owners have 60 days to either pay their taxes in full, enter into a payment plan with the city or pay just enough of the back taxes to be removed from the foreclosure procedure.
Less than two weeks after the notice went out, about a dozen have already paid their balance or signed up for a payment plan. The city is also working with those homeowners who want to pay their taxes but are unable to for various reasons.
"If a house is tax delinquent and it's not bringing down the neighborhood, our effort with this safety net group is to help that person stay in their house. We don't want to in mass move people out of their houses or anything like that. This is about improving our neighborhoods and at the same time improving out tax collections," said Driscoll.
City officials say the actual foreclosures will start in April.
City officials say this is the first of about 12 rounds of foreclosures notices that will be sent over the next three years.
The full list of foreclosures is below.