OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting Monday night, the Planning and Development Committee recommended the mayor form a commission to study how much rental properties have taken over some neighborhoods.
First Ward Councilor Connie Cosemento addressed the committee on Monday night regarding the issue of home ownership in the Port City.
“I have done a study of home ownership in the First Ward,” she said.
She went street by street and looked up every single property in her ward.
She displayed a colored map of the ward. The reds indicated rental units, blue was owner occupied, green represented the parks, and the pinkish-purple were the city properties. Industrial sites were shown in brown.
“It has been my contention since I’ve been a (councilor) these past six years that the First Ward, the density is very heavy with rental properties and with that comes problems like property maintenance, services by the city and so forth and so on,” she said.
It is an issue that didn’t happen overnight, it was a period of years, she added.
Her work with nuisance abatement “has been very rewarding” because it has dealt with the problem, she said.
She investigated other towns, college towns especially, to see how they handle the same kind of issues.
The map was completed in the spring of this year, based on the Oswego County Real Property data base.
“There is a glowing statement here and that is obviously the number of rental properties versus owner occupied. The rental properties total approximately 62 percent,” she said. “Many of these rental properties, once single-family homes, are two- or three-family properties now.”
Cosemento said she believes this type of map hasn’t been created for Oswego in the past.
The rental condition is creeping into the Third Ward and others as well, she added.
“This has been a slow creep and we were just not attentive,” she told the committee. “We need to engage our best efforts for the residents of Oswego to study and address this silent, but grave problem.”
The effects of this type of density stress city services and more important the quality of life, according to the councilor. Parking, noise, trash and safety all become compromised, she added.
Property values don’t increase and families move away to areas lacking these negative conditions, she said. Other impacts she said included some of the rental become vacant, community involvement decreases and new business opportunities has less to attract them.
During her search for ideas on how to most effectively and swiftly deal with the density issues, she came across a study: Promotion of home ownership in the city of Binghamton – a report of the mayor’s commission on housing and home ownership. (http://www.cityofbinghamton.com/Library/pages/Commissions/Commission%20on%20Housing%20&%20Homeownership%20-%20Final%20Report.pdf)
Oswego has many parallels with Binghamton and many of the suggestions Oswego has already implemented, she said.
“However, Oswego needs to change its current path. I suggest that the council request the mayor form a commission to study home ownership in Oswego and to include members of Zoning, Planning, Code, Police, Fire, Council Community Development, SUNY Oswego, landlords and others deemed necessary,” she said.
The commission would report back to the council in one year and during that year, there would be a moratorium on any new rental properties (newly built or converted from owner-occupied) in R1, R2 and R3 designations, Cosemento explained.
Should the commission complete its task in less than a year, the council would have the right to terminate the moratorium.
“I believe that the findings of such a study would benefit each ward and facilitate the council’s ability to address the quality of life as well as help make our city what we all envision it to be,” Cosemento said. “Additionally, the study would help connect the boards, the council and various departments so that we can avoid future creep.”
The city did a moratorium about five years ago when the council voted to have a moratorium in residential areas where you couldn’t convert a single-family home into a two-family home until a study was done, she said, adding that has become permanent.
“However, it hasn’t stopped the problem of density,” she pointed out. “Our property values are at risk, our neighborhoods are at risk. My goal isn’t to stop new rentals. It is to put our city on track and figure out what it is that we can do.”
She would like to create a map that shows all of the rentals throughout the city; and include violations.
“We could come up with all kinds of ideas where we recognize where neighborhoods can no longer take more rentals,” she explained.
When you have rentals, and they are not families, then you reduce the number of children that attend the local schools, she added.
“So, we really need to do this and do this correctly,” she said.
She asked the committee to recommend to the council to set a public hearing on the matter. However, Gay Williams, city attorney, indicated that a public hearing wasn’t really necessary.
“I’m not sure you need a public hearing. This isn’t an ordinance or local law,” Williams said. “All you’d need is a resolution (to create the commission).”
“I’d like to say thank you to Mrs. Cosemento. She obviously did her homework and did a lot of research on this,” said committee chair Mike Myers. “I think we really should look at this.”
Cathy Santos, Third Ward, also complimented Cosemento, adding those issues were indeed encroaching into her ward.
Getting all the stakeholders involved in working to solve the problem, “really is a step forward,” she said. “I agree it is time to do something.”
The Community Development Office is promoting home ownership, said Mary Vanouse, community development director.
“We have had over 100 families get into home ownership over the last five years, just through programs that we’ve had through Community Development,” she pointed out.
The current economic climate makes home ownership hard to realize, she added.
The map that Councilor is suggesting would be very beneficial for the community, Vanouse said.
“I think it could also go hand in hand with the re-zoning that was called for in the 2020 plan based on land use,” she said. “It could include tighter code enforcement when it comes to conversions, particularly in dense neighborhoods.”
The full council, at its Nov. 14 meeting, will consider forming the commission.