By Melissa Brewer
The city of Rochester is gearing up for a few major construction projects that are all looking to change its current landscape and affordability. One program that will shift the housing market in Rochester is the Mission-Based Affordable Housing Partnership.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James came to Rochester on May 18 to announce to program. According to the announcement, the program will grant up to $1.4 million to mission-based organizations that are looking to develop available land into affordable housing. Nonprofit civic institutions will also be eligible for the grant. This program will extend beyond Rochester into Erie county as well as areas of Central New York and the Capital Region.
When James visited earlier in the month, she met with local political and faith leaders at F.I.G.H.T Village, a champion of affordable housing in Rochester led by Minister Clifford Florence. The organization has been pushing for affordable housing in Rochester since the 1960s. Its challenges lie in combatting the placement of low-income families in cheap but old homes that present dangers such as lead paint, which is still present in about 57 million homes in the United States.
“We’re fighting with racism, we’re fighting with the lack of jobs, affordable housing, education. So the issues are the same as they were 50 years ago, but we have to have the will to do what it takes to change it,” Florence said.
With the new partnership, organizations like F.I.G.H.T will finally be able to give Rochester residents a permanent solution for stable and economical housing. Too often, homeowners facing financial troubles turn to temporary fixes such as hard money loans, which typically have a loan-to-value ratio in the 60% to 70% range. Now F.I.G.H.T will be able to give residents another option by working with trustworthy developers. These professionals can help guide organizations through the construction processes, which are often long and complicated.
The Flower City Habitat for Humanity and the Autism Council of Rochester are also partnering to bring housing for an underserved community in the city. The two organizations plan to develop autism-friendly homes for families that have children with autism.
Not only will the program get more families closer to being homeowners, the number of which in the country is down to 63.4% from 69% in 2004, but it will also provide the space and modifications that children with autism need.
Objects such as compression swings can help balance the behavior and emotions of children with autism, but they don’t fit very easily into a two-bedroom apartment. The housing will also include sound and light sensitivity and a stockade fence in the backyard that measures six to eight feet high to ensure kids don’t wander into the streets while they play.
The final piece of news in Rochester construction is the proposed Rochester 2034 comprehensive plan. This plan aims to increase density and create more varied uses for certain city arterials. According to city officials, the proposal won’t result in many dramatic changes, but will instead reinforce or restore the downtown area’s historic form and character.
The rezoning efforts would aim to balance the stark differences in poverty rates, education levels, unemployment, minority population share, and more seen between the neighborhoods with the highest and lowest demands. In the southeast and crescent, two areas that are polar opposites to one another, two-thirds of residences are rentals. This is higher than the citywide average and with 33% of renters moving every year, there isn’t much permanency in either of these zones.
No official zoning changes are underway now, but they will go be brought to the neighborhoods and go through normal approvals when it comes time.
The plan will also focus on street-level retail around the East End area, Sibley Square, and Midtown. Establishments like local restaurants and independent coffee shops, which have about $12 billion in annual sales, will help guide the rezoning process in these areas.
The proposal is both more flexible in regulations regarding minimum lot sizes and parking and more adamant about higher standards for the design of mixed-use and multi-family building projects. Although no details of the plan are definite quite yet, the city will hire a consultant to review its zoning code and map once the plan is adopted.