Mayor Lovely Warren recently announced a new effort to promote homeownership in the city of Rochester. She wants to expand the homeownership tax breaks that the city currently offers in downtown Rochester to all city neighborhoods.
That program, called Core Housing Owner Incentive Exemption (CHOICE), has been successful in recent years at turning the once-desolate downtown Rochester into an area where people actually live. According to Gary Kirkmire of Neighborhood and Business Development, CHOICE offers a significant tax incentive to people who build homes and live in them, encouraging growth through owner-occupancies and construction in residential neighborhoods.
The incentive is a nine-year declining tax exemption on city, school, and county property taxes. In year one the exemption starts at 90% and is 10% by year nine. There are no discounts thereafter, but this steep cut on property taxes could be very helpful for new homeowners. Although the vast majority of American employees pay income taxes, which account for about half of federal revenue, the additional burden of property taxes is often what disrupts the dream of homeownership for many. Interested participants can claim the exemptions for new owner-occupied, market-rate housing construction or renovation.
For 24% of recent home buyers, the primary reason for the recent home purchase was a desire to own a home, while 9% purchased due to a job-related relocation or move, and 8% bought for the desire to be in a better area or a change in family situation. Warren hopes that the structure of this new incentive will help close the gap between the assessed property values in various city neighborhoods and the cost of new construction.
“We have people who want to live, work and play in our city and we want to give them that opportunity and giving them that opportunity to actually build and design their home the way that they want, to design it on some of the land that we have available in many of our neighborhoods,” said Warren.
Imagine Monroe, a local industrial development agency, administers the tax agreement. The city is still seeking approval from Imagine Monroe to expand CHOICE to other neighborhoods in Rochester. If approved, the program would allow for single-family homes — the median of which is about 2,386 square feet — and two-family homes that are owner-occupied. Homeowners can even combine CHOICE with other incentive programs. According to Kirkmire, developers such as Habitat for Humanity and Greater Rochester Housing Partnership can take advantage of the program as well.
It’s important to note that studies show that the average amount it takes to sell a house in the U.S. is around $15,200. The city’s plan could also open the door to new housing options, including tiny houses. Down state, specially in Suffolk County, the median home price is $415,000. Records show that these homes would likely be most appealing to empty nesters and millennials. While empty nesters may see the draw in tiny houses in their ability to downsize, millennials are looking to grow financially, with about 96% of millennial investors interested in making a real estate investment. A tiny house offers an affordable option while still giving millennial investors a viable piece of real estate.
Despite the city’s insistence that CHOICE is a successful program, some critics think otherwise. Democratic City Council candidate Mary Lupien has seen CHOICE’s impact and believes that it favors the wealthy. Lupien says that the focus on middle and high-income neighborhoods is a focus on development that doesn’t need financial support. She instead points to the many vacant lots in Rochester that need investment.
“If it is not targeted, the CHOICE program will further gentrification and increase inequality,” Lupien said in a joint statement released by her and Rachel Barnhart, Democratic nominee for Monroe County legislator.
Barnhart has said that the majority of people who will apply for the tax break would have built anyway. According to Barnhardt, the break wouldn’t encourage homeownership for renters who occupy some of the 42.58 million housing units in the United States, but simply help the wealthy build homes they would have built anyways. She points to the new builds on East Avenue and Park Avenue that have happened in the last decade without assistance from CHOICE.
Lupien believes that focusing on other programs in which construction is already subsidized could help more low-income residents get into homeownership. As the United States is the second largest construction market in the world and continues to see growth, the price of new home construction is often beyond the budgets of low-income residents. If a program subsidizes the cost of construction, these residents could more often afford becoming homeowners. Lupien sees this outcome as a huge step for the Rochester community.
In the face of these criticisms, Kirkmire counters that low-income neighborhoods would not be shut out because market-rate prices would be proportionate to the area. He maintains that if the program helps develop all 600 vacant lots in the city, all of the city’s residents would be able to benefit.
City Council still needs to approve the CHOICE expansion proposal before it goes into effect. The public will be able to give input on the proposal as well.
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. For instance, unlike traditional mudjacking where a minimum waiting period of 24 hours is necessary, builders can use raised concrete right away.
A typical family spends about a third of its annual heating and cooling budget — roughly $350 — on air that leaks into or out of the house through unintended gaps and cracks.Since there are around 17 million shipping containers in the world, and only 6 million of these in use — approximately 11 million shipping containers are currently unused and could be converted into affordable homes for people all over the United States.
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.
Gallina Development , with the help of the Rochester Model Railroad Club , has restored a favorite old model railroad display for the holiday season. The model trains, which have sat in storage for a decade, will be in the lobby of The Metropolitan (formerly Chase Tower) at One Chase Square in Downtown Rochester through the holidays…
Consider this a lightweight palette cleanser in the middle of the five course, multi-month feast that is the zoning series. Even so, it’s deeply related to zoning, so you’re not getting off that easy. Read on if you dare (Halloween pun intended!).
Goodbye houses, hello something more! Having already discussed the city’s 3 residential zones, it’s time to talk about its 3 mixed-use zones. In one of the many progressive moves in the 2003 re-zoning, Rochester moved away from pure commercial use zones by adding mixed use and residential uses to the (formerly) commercial zones. The narrative descriptions changed, but the letter designations did not. Anyway, ditch the bowtie, grab a monocle and let’s go…
Yesterday we took a bike ride down inside the Inner Loop with Matthew Ehlers to see how Rochester’s “big fill” was progressing. Quite nicely I’d say. But once filled, the next question becomes, what will fill the void.
RocSubway reader Ben Voellinger pointed us to a recent document posted to the City’s website that outlines recommendations for future development(s) along the new Union Street. Thanks Ben! Let’s take a look…
On Saturday, April 25th, from 11am to 7pm, Arnett Boulevard between Rugby Avenue and Wellington Avenue in southwest Rochester’s 19th Ward Neighborhood will come alive with events, artwork, and temporary small businesses.
This Better Block project, in the historic Arnett Trolley Stop District, is part of a nation-wide movement to demonstrate possibilities for revitalizing urban neighborhoods.
I’ve been writing Filling in Columns for over 2 years now (starting with this one on Exchange Street), and I’ve realized that it’s high time to have a discussion about my vision for the column, what I write, and why I write it…
You may remember an article I posted more than a year about new plans for an Aldi store in Irondequoit on Hudson Ave. At that time I suggested the building should front the street/sidewalk, instead of being set back behind the parking lot. I thought the result would have been a development that would be more accessible to people who might choose to walk in off the street.
My suggestion was met with all kinds of wisdom from the project architect who has since set me straight. I now understand why it is better community planning to put your buildings in the middle of parking lots…
You may have heard FSI Development of Rochester has purchased the empty lot at 186 Atlantic Ave (a.k.a. The Gleason Lot). Here at RocSubway we’ve fantasized about filling in this empty lot for quite some time. And although it’s not our original vision, the actual plan may be even better than how we dreamed it – primarily because it involves a local brew.
FSI is planning to build a brewery and tasting room on the southeast corner of the site to lease to Three Heads Brewery of Honeoye Falls. Damn, why didn’t we think of this…
Welcome to Part 2 of Filling In: 37 Eagle Street. It’s been a while, so to catch you up, in Part 1 my wife and I bought an empty lot at 37 Eagle Street in Corn Hill. But the fun doesn’t stop there. We decided to build ourselves a house on it, and we’re going to take you along for the ride!
Today I want to talk about architects. Just for starters, we decided we did not want off-the-shelf plans and would instead pay (about 10% of the overall project budget) for a house to be designed from scratch…
For those of us that have friends and family in town for the holidays, one of the most difficult things to explain to outsiders about this place may be Rochester’s grocery store obsession. In this holiday edition of Wear to Where, we stop in at the grocery store and pick up a few things…
The transformation at the Carriage Factory building has been nothing short of amazing. Located at 33 Litchfield Street in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood, the former factory building that was close to the landfill has been reborn as seventy-one affordable and special needs apartments. The rehabilitation of the building was a long time coming and was not without its challenges and delays…
As you know, the City of Rochester is requesting development proposals for the empty lots along Charlotte Street. I am sending you a plan that I worked on with a couple of designers. Unfortunately, we have not been able to connect with any interested developers, and proposals were due December 5th.
The following design is by Pebble-stream; we wanted to share it with our friends who believe in the future of this community…
Welcome to the first part of Filling In: 37 Eagle Street. I’d love to tell you how many parts to expect, but I don’t really know. What I can tell you is that this is the first Filling In about a real live project: my wife and I are building ourselves a house at 37 Eagle Street in Corn Hill.
So what gives? Why a house, you say? Well, I’ve always dreamed of building myself a house, and if you haven’t noticed from previous columns, I’m very much interested in developing Rochester. If that’s not a fortuitous intersection of desires, I don’t know what is…
While Buckingham Properties is hard at work breathing new life into Rochester’s old Ward Plumbing Supply building at 739 South Clinton Avenue a group of RIT architecture students is simultaneously using the project to test their own chops. The wild concepts the students came up with are fun to compare with the actual project…
As some of you may or may not know, the city recently released a Request For Proposals (RFP) for the redevelopment of another piece of the Midtown site. Parcel 5 , the site in question, is the very long block from Main St to Elm St and between the Windstream building to the west and 1 East Avenue (Bank of America) to the east. Let’s go back to our trusty Midtown site plan for a visual…
RocSubway is excited to share with you some exclusive pictures of an exciting downtown development. 210 South Avenue is currently being transformed into future commercial and residential space in the heart of downtown Rochester. The building currently known as the Merkel Donohue building—and its connected buildings—will be transformed into a mix of commercial & residential space and will go by the name of Woodbury Place…
After the Erie Canal was rerouted south of downtown Rochester, the Rochester
Industrial & Rapid Transit Railway (the subway) was built in
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