We have to build neighborhoods, not just houses. People don’t just buy houses; they buy neighborhoods.
A piecemeal approach to housing is not leading to transformative change in neighborhoods or the lives of residents. The current scattershot approach of new builds, renovations and demolitions has left “missing teeth” and disjointed development. This diffuse approach is not stabilizing neighborhoods and poor residents remain concentrated in certain areas.
We must strive for economic diversity in housing. All housing decisions should be made with an eye toward helping residents and improving neighborhoods. We must not build affordable housing exclusively in high poverty neighborhoods. We must not build new houses in neighborhoods where there are a lot of abandoned houses.
We will have a Tenant Ombudsman. We are giving landlord’s a property tax break. We also need to advocate for tenants’ rights and help them solve problems they may have with housing.
We will look for opportunities to remake our landscape with urban farms, community gardens, sustainable energy projects, parks and playgrounds.
We will use the land bank to acquire houses and explore putting unemployed residents to work rehabbing them. The land bank is an underutilized tool to acquire and reuse abandoned properties.
We will work with the Rochester Housing Authority to better leverage opportunities to build affordable and supportive housing. This is imperative because nearly two-thirds of renters are “burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
We will explore bringing back the Neighbors Building Neighborhoods model, in which residents had a seat at the planning table. City Hall must have a true partnership with neighborhood groups.
Code enforcement is extremely important to neighborhoods. We will work with property owners to identify and fix problems.
We will end the 10-year tax abatement program encouraging home ownership in downtown Rochester. This is essentially a giveaway to wealthy developers and affluent buyers. This program has not led to an influx of downtown owner-occupied units. It’s also grossly unfair to ask poor homeowners in struggling neighborhoods to pay more in taxes than someone who can afford a $300,000 downtown condo, even if it’s for a limited time.
One of the best forms of economic development is to make places walkable. That means streets must be safe, comfortable, interesting and capable of taking you to a destination. Places that are walkable have higher property values.
Many parts of Rochester are not walkable. We’ve destroyed them with cars, creating wide roads difficult to navigate on foot or bike. We’ve torn down beautiful buildings to make way for highways and parking lots. Some neighborhoods are not walkable because they have vacant storefronts and houses. Other neighborhoods have few destinations, including grocery stores, within walking distance.
The city will strive to make all neighborhoods walkable. That means taking the pedestrian experience into account during all decisions regarding planning, development and infrastructure projects.
The city will also encourage bicycle use by aggressively adding bike infrastructure. A big reason people don’t ride bicycles is they don’t feel safe. Bike boulevards, protected bike lanes and bike paths are necessary investments.
Our plan calls for a property tax cut that should spur investment in the city. That may bring about talk of gentrification. We consider increased home values, household incomes and neighborhood services to be a good thing. But a dramatic increase of rents and home prices that threaten to displace residents can be a bad thing.
If areas of the city face this problem, there are steps we can take to protect longtime residents. Those steps include tax breaks for homeowners whose home values skyrocket, addition of low and middle income housing, making sure high-end housing is not concentrated in one place, and adding more apartment units to meet demand.