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City's affordable housing initiative moves forward with council approval

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Scott Willis
Housing Visions recently renovated these homes on E. Genesee St. as affordable homes. The company will be involved in building new infill housing on the south and west sides of the city as part of the city's Resurgent Neighborhoods Initiative.

The Walsh administration’s big push to build new affordable housing in the city took another step forward today. Syracuse Common Councilors approved an agreement that clears the way for developer Housing Visions to apply for a tax exemption from the state. Commissioner of Neighborhood Development Michael Collins says it’s a critical piece of the mayor’s Resurgent Neighborhoods Initiative.

"In order to make affordable housing work, you have to take care of two things: You have to take care of the ability to build it and also the ability to operate it so it continues on as quality affordable housing. Because of the low rent collected, we are making sure the tax burden on the property matches what is required to be able to make it work."

The agreement calls for as many as 66 affordable housing units at scattered sites where homes have been demolished.

"Tearing down a house is a fraction of the cost of building new. The first part was incredibly important because it stabilized the neighborhoods. This is the reinvestment in the neighborhood after the stabilization."

Collins says they’re taking a different approach from typical affordable housing projects by building two-family units.

"We're not doing large buildings with lots of units. That's where economies of scale come in and make it affordable on the development side to be able to get the project done. When we're doing two units at a time, that becomes very expensive. But that's what's right for these neighborhoods."

Actual building is at least a year away. Housing Visions still has to submit its application to the state, and the state needs to approve it before the organization can put together its financial package.


Syracuse common councilors also approved federal pandemic relief funds for a series of items, including an assessment of the city’s gun violence prevention efforts. The nearly $71,000 agreement is with the renowned Tillmon Training and Consulting, which Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens told councilors she’s worked with in the past. She says the city needs to get a better grasp on the work being done by community based organizations.

"What we don't have is a good assessment of what they're doing, how are they measuring it, what gaps are we seeing in the service they're providing so the city of Syracuse has a basis of that information."

Owens says the data collected will also help the future director of the mayor’s new office to reduce gun violence.

Councilors also approved pandemic relief funding for a number of other initiatives. First, $1.25 million will bolster arts and culture organizations and artists hit hard by the pandemic over the past two years. An allotment of $350,000 was set aside for On Point for College to increase outreach to Syracuse school children from lower-income and underrepresented backgrounds. And just over $400,000 will fund free, professional, one-on-one financial education and advice to residents.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at