Help The Poor, Not Subsidize Developers

Syracuse's vacant properties renovation program subsidizes developers rather than helping poor working families become homeowners. (Post-Standard letter to the Editor.)

August 1, 2008

To the Editor:

The city has embarked on a program to get vacant property renovated and put back into use. Excellent. But what is their plan, precisely? They will sell the properties to developers for 1 dollar, and will grant 7+ years of property tax relief on the properties. The developers will then mostly rent the properties at market rates in order to benefit from the property tax breaks. All in all, a nice gift to established businesses.

Suppose, instead, the city offered the same properties and benefits to low income working families, and connected them with reputable contractors who would perform the renovations. Given the free property, property tax relief, and the city's backing, banks could safely offer the loans for the renovations, which would then be converted into small mortgages.

Now, poor working families may not afford a $100,000 mortgage, and may not be interested in a $50,000 mortgage on a dilapidated house. But they would surely see a fully renovated house with just a $50,000 mortgage as affordable, a great opportunity, and a dream come true.

I urge the city to reverse its trickle-down approach to revitalizing blighted property, and create instead a rare opportunity for dozens of poor working families to attain homeownership.

Sincerely yours,
Carlo Moneti