September 8, 2013

Another Parade of Homes, Outside the City

This week the 'Syracuse' 2013 Parade of Homes opens. As with some of the other recent editions, the Parade is not being held in the city of Syracuse, it's in the town of Lafayette, along the Jamesville Reservoir. Some previous Parades have been in Onondaga, Manlius, Howlett Hill, and Clay (next year will be the fourth time there).

Last year, I imagined a parade-style investment in the city and what that could mean to our future; I can't help thinking the same thing again this year, and hope that our candidates for mayor would imagine the same thing.

I appreciate what's happening in our downtown neighborhood, and won't complain about our ridiculously high occupancy rate for the lofts and funky apartments -- and I love that people are investing in saving our old buildings and supporting the city's core.  But we need similar support in the city's heart -- our neighborhoods.

Looking at some data gathered by the US Census bureau, it seems obvious that we need something bold, something shocking, something completely different, if our city is to survive.  Check out these numbers, which are the estimates for 2007 - 2011:
  • Only 41.9% of our total housing units are single family homes; over 20% are two-family, and 14% are more than 20 units;
  • The vacancy rate was 15.5%;
  • 59.3% were renter-occupied, not owner-occupied;
  • 75.5% of all houses were built before 1960; 49.5% were built before 1939.
Imagine being able to restore dozens of those older homes, bringing back their glory and making them safe again. Imagine having professional landscapers transform entire city blocks with green spaces, in collaboration with existing sustainability efforts. New sidewalks and lighting. Active neighborhood watch groups and neighborhood associations. Increased owner-occupancy rates.

Cities thrive when committed people live in them, people who have skin in the game. Schools improve; businesses move in; tax collection increases, and services can continue to be provided to all city residents. There are lots of committed people already in Syracuse, and many neighborhoods are building or maintaining their identities, including Sedgwick Farm, and Lincoln Hill, and Eastwood, and Strathmore and Tipp Hill (their website is under development).

There are lots of other neighborhoods could use that same kind of identity-building, community-building, thriving-city-building energy. We should be able to fix a lot of houses with type of private investment made on the 2013 Parade homes, coupled with block grants and other funding that might be available for this type of work.

Imagine a Parade of Homes in Syracuse.