When the Oswego County Land Bank originally acquired the property at 13 Box Street in Pulaski it was a two-family house that neighbors said had been in a state of decline for 20 years. The completed project will now return to the tax rolls as a single-family, owner occupied home, with a first-time homebuyer already in the process of purchasing the property for her young family.
An abandoned house can be more than just an eyesore to a neighborhood. Watching the property decay can lead active neighbors to question, “Why should I continue investing in my property when no one addresses that structure?”
The Oswego County Land Bank has been working to combat those feelings of hopelessness in communities by acquiring tax-delinquent and abandoned properties, and returning them to the tax rolls.
“It’s quite a process to determine the best outcome for a property,” said Land Bank Director Kim Park.
Since its founding in 2016 the land bank has placed more than a dozen properties back on the tax rolls by selling them in the form of vacant lots, “as is” properties where the new owners commit to completing necessary renovations, and as fully rehabbed single-family homes.
One of the most recent projects completed by the land bank is a four-bedroom two-bathroom home located on Box Street in Pulaski. Looking at the property from the street and walking through its renovated rooms, it’s hard to imagine what the property looked like when it was first acquired by the organization.
“It was the worst house on the street,” said Park. “There was a hole in the ceiling so bad that animals were coming in and dragging insulation through the house.”
She also remembers standing in the upstairs bathroom and feeling a light mist coming through an additional hole in the roof.
Park said the land bank acquired the property from the county auction list for $1, and immediately began looking at the work needed to stabilize what was then a two-family home.
Frank Eddy, who lives across the street from the Box Street property, said he was happy to see something being done with the home after watching it decline for 20 years, but in the beginning he wasn’t sure what to expect from the land bank.
“I didn’t want to see it become a rental property again,” said Eddy. “This neighborhood has been improving. Hopefully this will be another step in that positive direction.”
Park said when the land bank begins a project in a new town, its first step is to reach out to the community to keep them informed and involved in the process.
“We make a point to reach out to neighbors and people in the local town government,” she said. “We’re here to be a neighbor, too.”
Park said she fondly referred to Eddy as “The eyes on Box Street,” as he kept watch over the property for land bank officials.
“Mr. Eddy would email or call me if he ever saw anything happen with the house,” said Park. “After one of the big storms we had a branch come down on the brand new roof, and Mr. Eddy let us know about it.”
She also said Eddy’s insight into the community was invaluable for the land bank as it led to connections with local builders and suppliers who were initially hired to work on the Box Street project, but continued completing projects for the land bank in other areas of the county. Park said the organization makes a point of using local labor and businesses, and uses connections with neighbors along with traditional outreach to find the best fit for each project.
“We exercise every avenue we can think of,” said Park. “We placed ads in all the local papers and on our website, and we try to buy all of our products locally.”
After beginning the renovations on Box Street during the summer of last year, the property was placed on the market this spring and has already been claimed by an eager family.
Hailee Tanguma said she saw the property the day it was listed online and knew she had to walk through the home.
“It was just posted that day,” said Tanguma. “I was working with Bridget from First Carriage House and we went to see it as soon as we could.”
Tanguma said she knew the house was perfect for her family the moment she walked inside, and quickly after her first visit she made an offer, which was accepted by the land bank.
“I love that it’s really open and has lots of windows that let in natural light,” she said, adding the house and yard offer plenty of space for her two young sons, ages 2 and 5.
“I am so excited,” said Tanguma, adding this is her first time purchasing a home. She hopes to finalize the sale and begin moving into the house in early May.
Park said the family is a perfect fit for the property, something she hopes to find for all of the upcoming land bank projects.
Recently the organization learned it is on the verge of acquiring an additional two-dozen tax delinquent properties, most of which Park said are slated for rehabilitation.
“We’re going to have a heavy focus on renovations with this group of properties,” said Park, explaining that out of the more than 20 new properties only three appear to be demolition material at this time.
The house on Box Street will likely be the land bank’s second fully renovated sale, but Park hopes to see that number climb over the next few years.
“That’s our goal,” said Park. “To return these properties to the tax rolls as single-family, owner-occupied homes.”