SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The City of Syracuse’s Office of Innovation, or “i-team,” has announced housing stability as its priority area for 2018. The Mayor chose the priority with input from the Common Council, informed by six weeks of public engagement that uncovered the important issues according to residents.
Housing stability is a major challenge for Syracuse. In some parts of the city, more than 30% of residents move each year, creating a deeply negative impact on families and children. Between 15 and 44 housing units are declared unfit to live in each month. Housing instability and transiency have enduring effects on families’ abilities to obtain basic necessities (e.g., food, clothing, and medicine) and can lead to frequent school moves, higher rates of absenteeism, and lower test scores among children.
“Everyone deserves to have a safe, healthy, and affordable place to live, and as a city, we can do a better job of ensuring that,” said Mayor Ben Walsh.
Under the housing stability priority area, the i-team will work to develop programs and initiatives to reduce the number of times that families involuntarily relocate to new homes. Determining the focus area is the first step in the team’s yearlong process, which includes investigating the problem, generating ideas, developing solutions, and implementing and adjusting the initiatives. This work may address challenges related to utilities, finances, eviction, housing quality, and health and safety that contribute to housing instability.
“The i-team worked to engage as many people as possible through a variety of channels. The combination of seeking input, both online and in community spaces, and presenting at public events yielded hundreds of responses,” said Mayor Walsh. “It provided real data that clearly indicated the issues our city cares about most, which was an important part of my decision.”
The public engagement effort began in mid-January. Almost 900 residents participated in the poll and ranked sidewalks (282 votes), housing stability (244 votes), and alternative transportation (226 votes) as top issues for the i-team to tackle. After analyzing the responses and consulting the Common Council, the Mayor chose housing stability as the priority that will position the i-team to make the greatest impact. This focus will allow the i-team to build on their work with the Division of Code Enforcement regarding health and safety, while pursuing other avenues to improve housing stability. Data from the poll can be found on DataCuse, the City’s open data portal, at http://data.syrgov.net.
The Syracuse i-team launched in 2015 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Since then, it has helped make substantial progress on previous focus areas like improving the city’s water and road infrastructure—filling over 15,000 potholes, more than doubling its speed in resolving requests for repairs from residents, saving over $1.2 million on infrastructure costs, and winning over $750,000 more in state infrastructure grants. Additionally, the team’s most recent work with the Division of Code Enforcement has yielded an 18.2 percentage point increase in code compliance. Nearly 60% of violations, including health and safety violations such as heat and water shutoffs, infestations, and chipping lead paint, were successfully resolved by property owners on time.
Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Teams Program
Now working in more than 20 cities across four countries, the Innovation Teams Program helps cities solve problems in new ways to deliver better results for residents. Bloomberg Philanthropies awards cities multi-year grants to create in-house innovation teams, or “i-teams,” which offer cities a different set of tools and techniques to innovate more effectively and tackle critical challenges—from reducing violent crime to revitalizing neighborhoods to strengthening the growth of small businesses.