SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) The City of Syracuse is experiencing significant and sustained declines in vacant housing.

Since 2017, the City has seen the number of vacant residential properties drop by 12.3%.

The City’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development estimates that in 2015, there were 1,886 vacant residential properties in the City.

That number has dropped by nearly 400, representing a total decline in vacant residential structures of nearly 21% during the five year period to date.

Stephanie Pasquale, Commissioner of the Department, says, “It seemed as many properties as we were redeveloping another vacant would come in its place so it’s incredibly exciting to see not just the trend plateau but decrease, significantly.”

“I’ve had vacant properties on my street and they really are cancers. When somebody sees a property goes vacant it really gets them starting to think about what direction is the neighborhood going in,” Mayor Ben Walsh tells NewsChannel 9.

He says the City is tackling the problem by both dealing with current vacant properties but also being proactive with ones that easily could be.

“We want to try and figure out what the problems are and solve them because they really can bring a neighborhood down quickly,” Walsh says.

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank, created by the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County in 2012, is charged with returning vacant, under-utilized and tax-delinquent properties to productive use.

Since its founding, the Land Bank has successfully transitioned 708 properties from tax delinquency to new owners.

They say while the Land Bank offers a consistent strategy to return previously delinquent properties to productive use, properties which are vacant and tax-current require new interventions.

The City is using funds from the State Attorney General’s Office to implement programs like the Vacant Property Task Force and Blight Busting.

Pasquale, says, “We have the ability to correct code violations but we didn’t always have these resources and money to do it, so we were able to correct these exterior code violations and bill the owner, much like when we cut lawns.”

The costs of such projects are then assessed to the owner of the record and, if unpaid, are levied in the following year’s property taxes. Funds collected from this effort will replenish the repair fund over time.

Violations have been addressed at 12 properties to date and more than 15 projects are expected this summer.

The “threat” of Blight Busting has resulted in the improvement of an additional 63 properties.

“We’re trying to change the culture of response and that owners need to know we’re serious and we have these tools and rolling the dice doesn’t work anymore,” Pasquale tells NewsChannel 9.

The City’s Interdepartmental Vacant Property Taskforce includes staff from Neighborhood and Business Development, Division of Code Enforcement, the Law Department, and Syracuse Police and Fire Department. The taskforce has case managed the process of over 70 demolitions.

The recent launch of the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication expedites the process of addressing code violations that so negatively impact families and neighborhoods.