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New Onondaga County Legislator seeks public input on housing crisis

15th district Onondaga County Legislator Maurice Brown.
Ciara Feltham
used with permission
15th district Onondaga County Legislator Maurice Brown.

One of Onondaga County’s new legislators wants to hear more from his constituents about possible ways to address the area’s shortage of quality, affordable housing. Democrat Maurice Brown took office in January representing the 15th district and is hosting a town hall gathering on Monday.

 “I have to do something.  Legislatively, as a member of the minority caucus, we don't have much power. So I at least want to hear people out and get their ideas and use those ideas to elevate the conversation.”

The veteran and activist says the county has been doing good work through the O-CHIP incentive program for developers and supporting Tiny Homes for Good. With those exceptions, the county executive has said many times that the county has historically stayed out of the housing business. Brown disagrees with that approach. He says given the current crisis and high demand for housing in the future, the county needs to dramatically scale up its response.

“The role of county government is to protect citizens," Brown said. "I say that healthcare, education and housing are human rights, and I think it's the role of county government to make sure those rights are protected. I think we have to house people and whatever that looks like we need to do it.”

Brown says one solution might be a public, non-profit developer model similar to the approach taken by the City of Syracuse.

“What the public developer does is creates a commission that doesn't have that profit incentive," Brown said. "The public doesn't necessarily have the profit. Our mission is to create housing. So we can create a lot of units of housing and we don't necessarily have to make as much money as possible. And I think we need to create a lot of units of housing whatever ways we can.”

Brown’s town hall will be held Monday, March 18th starting at 6 p.m. at the Westcott Community Center on Euclid Avenue.

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