Look around at the vacant houses on the south and near-west sides of the city. They aren’t hard to see, they number over 500–more than half of the entire total in the city as a whole. What do you see? Broken windows, unmowed grass, graffiti, trash? Problems.
Every once in awhile you will see a vacant house in good shape. Fitted plywood in all the first and basement floor entrances. Bolts and 2 x 4’s holding them in place. No trash, lawns mowed. A large sign with an emergency contact phone number.
These homes are owned by HUD and managed by a company called First Preston. SUN fought for several years to get the federal government to do a better job of managing their vacant property inventory. As a result, these HUD houses are inspected twice a month, boarded up quickly and the lots kept free of trash and tall grass. SUN held a luncheon today honoring Tracey Thornton and Bonnie Losurdo of First Preston for the work they have done to improve the condition of the HUD houses in our neighborhoods.
The results have been astounding. The number of HUD houses in SUN’s neighborhoods have dropped from an average of 60 at any one time, to a current average of 10. Why? Houses that are well-maintained and secured promptly retain their value. The copper pipes, furnace, water heater and fancy woodwork stay in the house.
The city of Syracuse refuses to understand this issue. The Mayor, the Commissioner of Community Development and the head of Code Enforcement all say they want to reduce the number of vacant houses and protect our neighborhoods from the problems caused by vacant houses. Despite professing their concern, they refuse to learn from the example of First Preston and board up houses so that they cannot be broken into.
The answer is right in front of you Matt, if you would open your eyes!