Section 3

Housing & Neighborhoods

 Introduction

The Green Party vision for the future of Syracuse includes building communities that nurture families, generate good jobs and housing, and provide public services; creating cities and towns that educate children, encourage recreation, and preserve natural and cultural resources; building local governments that protect people from environmental hazards and crime; and motivating citizens to participate in making decisions.

All people have a right to a home and to be secure in their tenancy. However, there is a lack of affordable, code compliant housing throughout the City of Syracuse. The lack of affordable housing is a special problem in more stable neighborhoods where low income people and people of color are often denied housing based upon a generalized financial profile or group affiliation and not their individual circumstances. Instead of enacting zoning laws to increase affordable housing, the trend has too often been to increase the proportion of land zoned for commercial property at the expense of residential property. Instead of providing funding to increase affordable housing, amount of funds dedicated to this purpose is decreasing. Housing discrimination against people of color, immigrants, disabled, single people, gays and lesbians, and families with children remains a serious problem.

Compounding these concerns is the long-term stagnation of workers’ real wages, which further exacerbates the housing availability and affordability crisis. At the same time those who are not housed are often hounded, threatened, and often cannot obtain badly needed services. While increased affordable housing can help alleviate the problem of homelessness, the homeless have additional needs that go far beyond housing.

The Green Party views social diversity as the wellspring of community life where old and young, rich and poor, and people of all races and beliefs can interact individually and learn to care for each other, and to understand and cooperate. Syracuse neighborhoods should function like mini-villages within a larger metropolitan area, offering basic retail, green space, and social opportunities within a reasonable walking distance that are safe, offer high quality of life to its residents, and provide opportunities for people to come together in community. Many neighborhood business districts are filled with vacant storefronts, commercial establishments that do not offer basic retail services, are crime ridden, and are surrounded by deteriorating infrastructure and inadequate lighting that does not support safe pedestrian and bicycle travel to commerce and social opportunities.

We support the development of neighborhood based retail districts and community-based worker- owned enterprises. We call for increased public transportation, convenient playgrounds and parks for all sections of cities and small towns, and funding to encourage diverse neighborhoods. We support a rich milieu of art, culture, and significant (yet modestly funded) programs such as the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities. We emphasize a return to local, face-to-face relationships that humans can understand and care about as the foundation of civic life and political engagement. 

Section 3

Housing & Neighborhoods

Policies

3-1. Assert the Right to Quality, Affording Housing:  The Green Party asserts that all people have a right to affordable, code-compliant housing and security in their tenancy. Guaranteeing this right requires increased availability of a range of housing options, access to resources for housing, maintenance, and means for individuals to access housing opportunities. 

3-1a Increase Affordable Housing for Low to Median Income Families: We recognize that the only way to guarantee the right to housing is to ensure an adequate supply of affordable, code-compliant housing that can be maintained over time. We call for he City of Syracuse to create a Local Housing Trust Fund that is capitalized in part by funds collected by City Housing Court to match federal and state resources to provide affordable housing for low to median income families.

3-1b. Provide Adequate Housing for Homeless & Vulnerable Populations: We understand that homelessness is a multi-faceted problem that warrants a multi-faceted response. An adequate supply of affordable, no cost emergency housing and affordable transitional housing must be developed and maintained along with an interconnected service delivery system that works with individuals and families to address the root causes of homelessness. Day facilities, either at homeless and transitional housing sites, or as a separate facility, must be established to enable homeless individuals and families to be sheltered during the day and kept from roaming city streets.  Interventions are needed to assist vulnerable individuals and families who are unduly burdened by the cost of housing, or “doubled up,” to prevent them from becoming homeless as well.

3-1c. Provide Assistance to Owner Occupants to Maintain their Homes:  We recognize that many homeowners do not possess the resources to address the maintenance of their deteriorating older homes. Effective code enforcement is a necessary tool to identify homes that are in need of rehabilitation, particularly those not fit for human habitation. However, we believe the city should go beyond code enforcement to create a local Housing Trust Fund that is capitalized to match federal and state resources in providing grants and loans for income eligible home owners to enable them to maintain their homes in code compliant condition. 

3-1d. Provide Effective Code Enforcement for Investor Owned Homes: We support a code enforcement system that not only cites investor owners for code deficiencies in their single and multi-family homes, but also has adequate tools to force remediation of code deficiencies. As an alternative to permitting owners to vacate code deficient structures, we believe the city should have the authority to use rents and fines to put occupied properties into receivership and remediate deficiencies.

3-1e. Ensure that Vacant Properties Do Not Adversely Impact Neighborhoods: The Green Party believes that the city must use all tools at its disposal to reduce the large number of vacant properties blighting Syracuse's neighborhoods. This should include implementation of a Vacant Property Registry that requires owners of vacant properties to register them and pay an annual, escalating fee to retain them as vacant properties. We also call for the city to reach out to owners of vacant properties and encourage them to donate their properties to the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation (Land Bank) and receive a tax deduction for their donation. As a last resort, we support using the right of eminent domain to seize vacant, tax delinquent, code deficient properties and turn them over to the Land Bank for management in order to rid neighborhoods of blighted, unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

3-1f. Encourage the Development of Non-Traditional Housing: We understand that not all individuals are physically, mentally, or economically able to maintain their existing housing and a variety of options are needed to re-house these individuals/families. We believe the city should consider adjusting its zoning and code enforcement regulations to permit various non-traditional housing types in all zoning areas, as well as to permit construction of ramps in the fronts of houses.

3-2. Diversify Homogenous Neighborhoods: The Green Party values diversity and calls for the city of Syracuse to identify, develop, and implement policies and practices that promote economically, racially, ethnically and socially diverse neighborhoods.

3-2a. Promote Mixed Income Housing throughout the City: We call for the creation of affordable housing options throughout the city for low income individuals and families and incentives for higher income individuals and families to locate in lower income neighborhoods. This should include targeting resources to lower income neighborhoods to make them more attractive to prospective middle and higher income residents. This should also include utilization of tools like Community Land Trusts to protect low income residents against being driven out of their neighborhoods by rising property values, rising rents, and gentrification.

3-2b. Use Zoning Tools to Foster Diversity: We believe that tools such as inclusionary zoning can be important mechanisms for diversifying neighborhoods. We support using inclusionary zoning to integrate low income individuals and families into new or substantially rehabilitated developments of five or more units.

3-2c. Make Enforcement of Fair Housing a High Priority: We support using neighborhood assemblies, libraries, schools, places of worship, and other venues where people congregate to provide fair housing education and to recruit testers of fair housing regulations. We call for adding “source of income” as a protected class to insure that persons on public assistance or Section 8 vouchers are not denied housing based on their sources of income. We also support amending the federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program to increase access of eligible families to higher income communities, by including higher rents where necessary, improving administrative portability of vouchers across jurisdictional lines, re-establishing housing mobility programs to assist voucher-holders seeking to move to higher opportunity areas, creating strong incentives and performance goals for administering agencies, and providing incentives to recruit new landlords into the program.

3-2d. Protect the Right to Housing in the Neighborhood of Choice: We believe that all individuals have the right to housing in any city neighborhood they choose regardless of the group or class with which they may be identified. No individual should be denied the right to housing in a chosen neighborhood based upon negative, reputed stereotypical behaviors of members of the group or class with which the individual may be identified, regardless of whether or not that group is a protected class under fair housing laws.

3-3. Create Safe Neighborhoods with Access to Essential Services: The Green Party calls for planning and policy that advances the creation of safe neighborhoods with easy access to essential services and the means for a high quality life. We believe required features of such neighborhoods are:

  • Accessible sidewalks that are well maintained;
  • A municipal program for snow removal from sidewalks;
  • Crosswalks that are in good repair & uniformly marked throughout the city;
  • Sidewalk level lighting;
  • Mass transit/parking options to facilitate movement of people;
  • Community policing & staffed police storefronts in neighborhood business districts.
  • Improve enforcement of parking, trash, noise & other quality of life ordinances.

3-4. Promote Neighborhood Retail Districts & Worker Owned Enterprises: The Green Party supports the development of neighborhood based retail districts and worker owned enterprises by focusing economic development resources on establishing and maintaining neighborhood-scale essential retail services in neighborhood business districts. This should including providing seed money for worker owned cooperatives and incentives for neighborhood-based retail establishments to hire local residents (see also sec. 4-5 through 4-8).

3-5. Promote Neighborhood Based Civic Engagement, Education & Recreation: The Green Party believes that the quality of life and genuine citizen participation in civic affairs is most vital and rewarding when it is grounded in daily life at the neighborhood level. Neighborhood Assemblies (see also sec. 1-2 through 1-2c) will offer opportunities for citizen engagement and leadership development.  Neighborhood schools that serve as community centers can provide opportunities for lifelong learning, the delivery of health care, socialization and recreation to complement existing community centers and neighborhood organizations and libraries (see also sec. 2-3 through 2-3f).

3-6. Use Parks for Recreation Activities that Bring People Together: The Green Party supports actions by the Syracuse City Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs to sponsor and promote activities that bring people together in socialization, recreation and celebration. This should include providing large parks serving multiple and diverse neighborhoods with professional staff who are able to bring together a diversity of residents and engage them in social and recreational activities. We also support provide a mix of recreational and social activities in parks during all seasons; and the use of a multi-media approach to market recreation and social activities in parks.

3-7. Promote the Greening of Syracuse at the Neighborhood Level: The Green Party supports the development and promotion of neighborhood based leadership and action in the Greening of Syracuse. We support the development of partnerships that bring the expertise of SUNY ESF and other organizations or businesses with green expertise to disseminate knowledge about tree stewardship, gardening, rainwater savings, and other green activities to neighborhood leaders and provide neighborhood leaders with resources to share what they have learned with residents. We believe that a focused effort between the City of Syracuse and its partners in the greening of Syracuse based on neighborhood leadership and action would result in desired outcomes like:

  • Neighborhood tool-lending sheds;
  • Neighborhood seed & plantings exchanges;
  • Reforestation of  neighborhoods through tree planting & resident tree stewardship;
  • Development of greenways between parks & other green spaces;
  • Support pedestrian traffic through improved sidewalk & crosswalk infrastructure;
  • Create & maintain a comprehensive system of bike pathways.

3-8. Encourage the Strategic Re-densification of Syracuse’s Neighborhoods:  The Green Party calls for the identification of zones within City neighborhoods to be targeted for housing development and neighborhood improvement to attract residents.  These zones should be adjacent to schools and neighborhood business districts and should promote the rehabilitation or reuse of existing housing.

3-9. Promote Rehabilitation & Deconstruction over New Construction & Demolition: The Green Party supports the prioritization of rehabilitation over new construction. We support requiring funded housing development agencies to exhaust all rehabilitation opportunities before being permitted to engage in new construction of affordable housing. Similarly, we support promoting deconstruction when possible rather than demolition with earmarked funding for deconstruction and a strong partnership with Habitat for Humanity to expand the scope of ReStore and improve its retail capabilities (see also sec. 7-1e & 7-4 to 7-4b).

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As a political party we work to establish political action based on cooperation, rather than exploitation, on conservation rather than consumption, and on sustainability rather than short-term gain. We believe in an alternative, independent politics.