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Regional News

Syracuse land bank faces biggest deficit ever

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The Greater Syracuse Land Bank, which buys blighted properties and sells them to be redeveloped in central New York, is looking at its biggest budget deficit ever, and without help, could be out of cash in two years.

In the last six years, land bank has acquired almost 1,700 properties. In that time they’ve sold 651 properties to private individuals, and demolished 268 blighted buildings. But taking care of the other 1,000 properties is expensive, according to land bank executive director Katelyn Wright. And without some influx of cash, she expects the land bank will run out of money by early 2021.

"The city has been our biggest funder to date. There were four years in a row where they provided us $1.5 million unrestricted and that’s how we’ve been able to bridge these deficits so far," said Wright. "So we’ll be looking for other sources of funding that is flexible enough to use it for things like lawn mowing and trash pickup, that are not glamorous and no one wants to fund."

If no other funding is found, she said the land bank would have to rethink its way of doing things.

"We would have to reevaluate the way we are doing property maintenance, which would make a lot of people unhappy, or figure out a way to convey these properties to the city and offload some of the expense we are facing."

Wright said land banks across the state are running into a money crunch. Because the Greater Syracuse Land Bank acquires more properties than others, they have more maintenance costs.  But she also said those extra properties put Syracuse in a better position to win grant funding. 

Land banks were created by the state in 2011 as a way to take control of and redevelop blighted and abandoned properties.