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Madison Gharghoury, Development Associate and Special Assistant to the President/CEO

Preliminary Assessment of Vacancy and Abandonment Challenges in Utica, NY

A Community Progress Technical Assistance Report

Published: December 2020


Author(s): Center for Community Progress

The City of Utica, New York engaged the Center for Community Progress to carry out a preliminary assessment of the City’s policies, programs, tools, and operations in place to address vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties.

Through our observations, we identified the following key takeaways:

  • The City could become a model of the state and the nation were it to apply its patient, collaborative approach to economic development, as well as its commitment to inclusion, to equitable neighborhood development.
  • A limited commitment to investing in the management, sharing, integration, and analysis of parcel data across City departments deprives the City a foundational component of a comprehensive approach to dealing with problem properties.
  • The City’s key challenge is less with vacant and abandoned properties (which include structures and lots) and more with occupied substandard rental properties.
  • Code enforcement, as a key preventative system, is not working effectively. While enforcement is challenging, particularly against LLCs and out-of-state owners, more and more communities are rethinking how to shift code enforcement from a reactive approach to a strategic and proactive approach that relies on a suite of services, tools, policies, and regulations to achieve better outcomes.
  • The disposition of tax foreclosed properties is being handled well, but if the goal of disposition is to advance inclusive and equitable neighborhood development, there are opportunities for minor reforms and more creative partnerships and programming.
  • The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), a $2million+ annual federal entitlement grant received by Utica from U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD), is being underutilized in addressing urgent housing needs.

Published: December 2020


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