Mayor Barlow proposes Blight Reduction Loan Program for vacant property
Mayor Billy Barlow announced today a proposed piece of legislation that he believes may be the most effective code enforcement measure yet to address vacant and blighted property in the City of Oswego. The legislation would allow the City of Oswego to repair property cited for exterior code violations and bring the property back into compliance with City rules and laws. The cost associated with the repair work would be charged to the property owner’s tax bill with a surcharge and interest, allowing the City to establish a revolving loan repair fund to administer and continue the program with no additional cost to City taxpayers. The City of Oswego will utilize $44,000 from a New York State grant to start the program.
“The Blight Reduction Loan Program will be the ultimate code enforcement tool for the City of Oswego to use to reduce blight and quickly bring properties in violation back into compliance, while drastically reducing the negative affect these properties have on City neighborhoods,” said Mayor Barlow. The Blight Reduction Loan Program will be incorporated in Chapter 85 in the City Code, which addresses vacant buildings. “This program will allow the City to hire a private contractor to complete the repair work on the property and once the fund is established, the associated charges will allow us to continue the program without cost to City taxpayers. This repair fund will allow the City to better enforce our existing laws and authorize our code enforcement office to work quickly to remedy issues in our neighborhoods and provide immediate relief to homeowners who care for their homes and maintain their property, but often fall victim to a neighboring property or rental unit that is not maintained and negatively affects residents’ quality of life,” Barlow said. “The City will only move forward with completing the repair work after multiple notifications have been provided to a property owner and a generous amount of time has passed without any work being done to the property in violation. Ultimately, we want property owners to repair their property, bring it into compliance and pay for the work themselves. This law allows the City to address properties and property owners who do not respond to notifications and have no intention of ever improving and maintaining their property,” Barlow concluded.
In 2016, the City of Oswego was awarded a $150,000 grant from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative to begin the revolving loan repair fund and implement other programs and initiatives to reduce neighborhood blight and address vacant and blighted property. To address the issue of blighted and abandoned property in the long term, Mayor Barlow says the City will create a citywide vacant property registry and upgrade software and technology for the Code Enforcement Department. The City will also reach out to, and partner with local financial institutions and housing organizations to create a plan of action for properties with liens in the immediate Oswego community.
Council Vice President Kevin Hill, R-3rd Ward, applauded the proposal saying it would be an effective tool for the City of Oswego, particularly in the 3rd Ward. “The 3rd Ward includes the western gateway to our City and encompasses Bridge Street all the way to the river. It is often the first impression of our City, and unfortunately, many of the properties that line this vital thoroughfare convey the worst impression of what our community has to offer. By providing our Code Enforcement Office an additional tool to address blighted and vacant properties in a timely fashion, we can work to transform this area into a showpiece that more accurately reflects the positive momentum we’re experiencing throughout the City,” Hill said.
Mayor Barlow will propose the local law to the Common Council on March 5th at 6:30pm at Oswego City Hall, 13 West Oneida Street.