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Syracuse Aims to Reduce Evictions in Broad Plan to Address Housing Stability

Scott Willis/WAER News

The City of Syracuse is ready to put a number of programs in place to tackle the significant housing stability problem.  One in four households in the city moves every year, mainly due to evictions.

Numerous city departments spent the past year analyzing data and working with housing and legal partners to arrive at 11 initiatives. Mayor Ben Walsh says a promising pilot program has kept many public housing residents in their homes.

"We were able to reduce evictions at SHA [Syracuse Housing Authority] by 75 percent. At Clinton Plaza the ownership saved more than $100,000 in eviction and turnover costs. So not only is it good for our tenants, our constituents, but it's good for our landlords and our property owners."

Walsh says they’re hoping to scale up that effort with landlords who own many properties. Neighborhood Development program administrator Sue McMahon says the key is stepping in early.

"In the past, people who were going to be evicted, they were one, two, three months late paying their rents. And now, after a week to two weeks, case managers are knocking on the door to have an early intervention and try and find out what's going on."

For example, she says Catholic Charities case managers are on site at Clinton Plaza a couple days a week to make appointments with legal services and hopefully prevent evictions. The city has several other programs aimed at improving housing quality and connecting residents with resources. 

Among them is the SCSD Healthy Housing Information Campaign. Packets full of safe and healthy housing tips were sent home to almost 11,000 elementary students. Walsh says he's already heard from at least one younger constituent who is doing his part.

"A little boy come up to me and said, 'Hey I got your letter in the mail.' I said, 'Oh, that's great.' And he said, 'I read the whole thing and I went around the house and pointed out all the areas that were taken care of and that needed some work.' And I just thought that was amazing. This kid was probably 10 years old."

The packets included healthy housing handouts, smoke detector information and code enforcement resources as part of the city's plan to improve housing quality.

Credit City of Syracuse
The city has three goals toward increasing housing stability, with specific programs for each.