Land Bank Sales Controversy

David J. Valesky

December 16, 2013

While it was a big day for members of the Land Bank board, it was also a big day for Zahide Halimi. A day she's long waited for. Zahide and her husband immigrated from Bosnia more than ten years ago. Her parents have now followed her to Syracuse, but have been unable to find a home. YNN's Bill Carey has more on the story.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- After a long search, Zahide focused on an abandoned house at 257 South Collingwood Avenue in the city's Eastwood section.

"Soon as we saw it, we liked it. And close to my street, three streets from us. And the house looked perfect," said Zahide Halimi, Home Buyer.

The house was among dozens that have been handed over to the Land Bank to sell after owners failed to pay their taxes.

The goal is for the city to add more properties back to its tax rolls, bringing in more revenues. But there's also a hope here to help stabilize some of the city's older neighborhoods.

While the process of selling is underway, there is an ongoing debate. Should the board increase its efforts to recruit buyers who would renovate and live in the homes? Or should they let the market rule, selling properties to those with the best bid and best renovation plan, even if that means landlords seeking rental properties? Some groups complain that out of town landlords have been the source of neighborhood problems in the past.

Most of the property in the city of Syracuse is rental property, so if we don't deal with rental properties, responsible rental properties. One of our board members actually commented during the meeting, there are good landlords and there are also bad homeowners," said Vito Sciscioli, Land Bank Chairman.

The board, approving half a dozen sales, says it's hoping to move quickly to get properties sold

"Let the market play here and let's get these properties back in productive use," Sciscioli added.

The Halimi's were happy to be the first buyers under the new program. Shaquir Halimi, a heating and plumbing installer will do much of the planned fix up work himself.

Zahide is just hoping the work will be done soon and her parents can move out of an apartment and into a new home.

"As soon as we fix it, they move," said Halimi.