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City Tackles Housing Crisis



Photo by Tom Rumble on Unsplash

Mayor Malik Evans has taken action to tackle the housing crisis many city residents continue to face.

 

Evans held a press conference to update the public on the progress of the Housing Quality Task Force. The availability and affordability of housing continue to be major concerns for community members, hindering social mobility and exacerbating poverty. Moreover, the city has acknowledged the need to eliminate vacant properties and has enacted a new law that mandates property owners to register and repair these vacant houses.

 

According to reports, the Code Enforcement team has very few vacancies left, and the management is actively hiring to fill those remaining positions. To strengthen efforts, the Buildings & Compliance and Neighborhood Service Center teams have collaborated and appointed two part-time Code Enforcement Inspectors. With a total of four inspectors, one will be assigned to each quadrant to enforce the City of Rochester Property Code and the New York State Property Maintenance Code along major roads.

 

 The City has introduced a new Property Management Portal to assist property owners and managers in overseeing and maintaining their housing portfolios and addressing code violations. This portal offers various self-service functions, including updating contact information for building owners and property managers, accessing lists of open code violations by property, submitting work schedules for Code Enforcement cases, and applying for plumbing and electrical permits.

 

Additionally, the City has implemented new and updated Code Enforcement policies. The Landlord-Tenant Bill of Rights, a document drafted by the City, is now sent annually to both tenants and rental property owners to promote their rights and responsibilities. It is important to note that this document is for informational purposes only and does not create any new rights or restrictions. Furthermore, the City has reduced the abatement time frames, requiring compliance with orders to remedy within 30 days.

 

Owners of vacant buildings must complete the new Civics Vacant Building Registry application by January 31 to avoid code violations. Similarly, LLC property owners have until the same date to complete the new LLC disclosure within the Civics Building Owner's Registry application. Failure to do so will make them eligible for a code violation. More information can be found on the City's website.

 

In terms of Code Enforcement cases taken to court, there have been 36 cases handled to date, involving a total of 89 properties, 505 units, and 3,750 violations. The fines awarded in these cases amount to $531,182.

 

To promote responsible ownership, the City has introduced a Property Code Compliance Score, which provides an objective and transparent scoring system to drive improvements in code compliance. This score also helps tenants make informed decisions when choosing a rental property.

 

The City will continue to fund repair and improvement programs, such as the Emergency Hazard Abatement Program, which hires contractors to address immediate hazards and bills the landlord if they fail to take corrective action. Repair and improvement grants and loans will also be provided to owner-occupants and high-scoring landlords in low-income areas. Additionally, the RENEW program, which integrates multiple housing agencies, services, and funding streams, is accepting applications for its rental property repair program.

 

To increase the supply of quality housing, the City has initiated the Buy The Block program. This program subsidizes the cost of new high-quality, affordable, owner-occupied houses, ensuring homeowners spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing. The first cluster of 13 Buy the Block homes on Thomas and Weeger Streets is now occupied, and construction of the next 6 is underway. Furthermore, over 30 additional homes are planned to begin construction by the end of 2024 in the SW quadrant of the city, contributing to the development in the Bull's Head area.

 

Lastly, the City aims to maximize the number of tax-delinquent properties transferred to responsible owners by expanding the Rochester Land Bank's pre-qualified developer partner network. A strategic plan will be completed in 2024 to build on the Land Bank's success in its first 10 years.

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