City program lets Rochester neighbors buy “zombie” properties for $1 – Rochesterfirst.com

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – A city program is letting Rochester residents pick up vacant, “zombie” properties near their homes in the city for just pennies on a dollar.

Iesha White and Kohobi Scott had their eye on the lot next door to their property for years.

“I kept asking if it was for sale and what they were going to do with it because it was vacant for a while there would be people cutting through and playing on it leaving debris,” said Kohobi Scott.

They were afraid to even let their kids play outside.

“It’s terrible for your property values, it’s terrible because you can’t let your kids out,” explains Scott. “There are people hanging around the backyard dumping garbage dumping tires.”

Now, thanks to a longstanding city policy, the two were able to purchase it from the city for $1 (and some other added fees, totaling around $300 dollars).

White said, “Since you are a homeowner you were going to take pride in your property and everything I don’t know about people who rent but if you’re a homeowner will take pride in your property and keep it up and add value to your neighborhood.”

The city says they’ve sold 24 of these properties in the last year.

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Schumer helps secure federal approval for Rochester anti-zombie home program – Democrat & Chronicle

Schumer helps secure federal approval for Rochester anti-zombie home program

by: Meaghan M. McDermott

Following a push by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has signed off on a Rochester program that helps put families back into formerly “zombie” homes.

Schumer on Wednesday visited a recently renovated home on Albemarle Street in Rochester to announce he’d sent a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson asking that the agency expedite approvals for the city’s Asset Control Area Renewal Agreements, a program that had been in limbo since February. That program lets Rochester buy at low cost homes that had been foreclosed by the Federal Housing Administration.

Via its HOME Rochester initiative, since 2003 the city has used the ACA program to rehabilitate 750 formerly vacant foreclosed homes and sell them back to first-time homebuyers.

“While the City of Rochester is plagued by over 2,000 zombie homes, HUD’s renewal of the ACA is a major step in the right direction that will allow the city to turn those zombie homes into family homes,” Schumer said in an email. “The agreement will help address this zombie home epidemic by giving Rochester the right to purchase foreclosed-on homes at a cheap cost, refurbish them, and sell them to first-time homebuyers.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren thanked Schumer for his attention to the matter.

“I can’t tell you how pleased I am that HUD officials have finally signed the two-year renewal,” she said in a written statement. “Now we can move forward with eliminating zombie houses and problem properties as we continue our efforts to create safer and more vibrant neighborhoods, more jobs and better educational opportunities for our residents.”

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Warren focuses on affordable housing – City Newspaper – August 15,2018

Warren focuses on affordable housing

by: Tim Louis Macaluso

While there’s been a surge of development of market-rate housing downtown, new housing for the city’s working class and low-wage earners hasn’t kept pace, And city officials want to take a fresh look at how they evaluate proposals for affordable housing.

Every year, the city issues Requests for Proposals asking developers to build affordable housing, but “affordability” can have different meanings. That’s because the formula for calculating affordable housing is outdated and doesn’t reflect the city’s high concentration of poverty, Mayor Lovely Warren’s chief of staff, Alex Yudelson, says.

The City Charter currently defines low- and moderate-income residents as those earning up to 120 percent of the median income for the Rochester metropolitan area. That median is based on the incomes of people living in Monroe, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Wayne, and Yates counties. But that gives an inaccurate picture of the incomes of most people living in the city and what they can afford to pay for housing, Yudelson says.

At 120 percent of median income, city housing is considered affordable for a family of four with an income of $88,800. That’s more than many city families earn. And more than one-third of city families are spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent, even though the federal government guidelines recommend not exceeding 30 percent. This creates instability for the family and the city, says Yudelson. Families are evicted and have to find new housing, and sometimes children have to enroll in a different school.

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Medley Centre: Senior housing proposed in former Sears – Democrat & Chronicle – August 14, 2018

Medley Centre: Senior housing proposed in former Sears

by: Sarah Taddeo

PathStone Corp. is proposing to bring approximately 150 senior apartments to the Sears site at the former Medley Centre mall in a bid to meet the burgeoning need for senior housing in the Irondequoit area.

The project, which will enter Irondequoit’s town development process later this summer, is in its early development and design stages. The preliminary plans for the 7-acre parcel include:

  • A two-story building with several courtyards, which will contain approximately 70 units, is proposed for the former Sears site. It will be connected to the existing mall structure via secure doors. Most of the units will be one-bedroom, with several two-bedroom apartments.
  • A five-story building, containing approximately 80 units, will be built to the east of the first building and connected via a skyway. Four stories will contain housing, while the first floor would be covered parking.
  • The project would have 155 parking spots.
  • A community space for the buildings’ residents to have meetings, meals or other activities is proposed.
  • PathStone is identifying services that could be integrated with the development to allow “frail elderly” to stay independent in the apartments as long as possible, said Amy Casciani, senior vice president for real estate development at PathStone.
  • The agency is working to obtain state funding and tax credits for the project, said Casciani.

This proposal is well-suited for this specific parcel in that it revitalizes a portion of the former mall while providing for Irondequoit’s legacy population, Casciani said.

“There’s a lot of vacant malls all over upstate New York and all over the country, and there’s a huge need for affordable housing,” said Casciani. “This would be a great way to introduce affordable housing in communities that desperately need it, but don’t have enough space for new construction.”

As an Irondequoit native, she remembers seniors using the mall as a community and exercise space, she said. With new development on the horizon there, including the town’s community center, the area could soon become a hub for senior living again.

PathStone manages another affordable housing location in Irondequoit — Hobie Creek Apartments on Brower Road — and it has a lengthy waiting list for units, she said.

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Top 5 hot areas in Rochester area: Webster, Greece and unexpected spots – Democrat & Chronicle

Top 5 hot areas in Rochester area: Webster, Greece and unexpected spots

by: Mary Chao

Real estate is ever changing as tastes evolve. Large McMansions that were trending 20 years ago are now being passed over in favor of smaller homes in walkable neighborhoods. Once not so hot areas become popular when buyers get priced out of the trendy areas.

What’s hot when it comes to real estate in the region? Here are the top five areas in Monroe County tracked with help from the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors and area real estate professionals.

1. Churchville/Riga

The village of Churchville in the western town of Riga is No. 1 when it comes to median home-price increase in 2017, according to the Realtors’ group. The median sale price shot up 38.8 percent from $125,000 to $173,500. The percentage of sales increased as well, up 3.4 percent in 2017. It was one of only three suburban towns in Monroe County to see an increase in sales in 2017.

Churchville is a walkable village with small locally owned businesses such as Anastasia’s Spotlight DanceThe Johnson House for steaks and Slice Pizza. Riga has a rural feel with homes on large lots.

John and Bonnie Loser built their 3,000-square-foot home in Riga on 90 acres in 2001. They were attracted to the low cost of land and low taxes. Plus it’s a place with personalized service. “When I go to Town Hall, they know my name,” John Loser said.

2. North Winton Village

When it comes to real estate in the city, there’s no hotter area than North Winton Village. Millennials like the walkable lifestyle close to dining and shopping. Stop by Winfield Grill for a drink and a snack or visit the Winton Branch Library for some downtime.

North Winton Village features a variety of older homes with tree-lined streets and sidewalks. Shopping local is a mantra in the neighborhood with Mayer Paint and Hardware and Fahsye gift shop nearby.

Homes that do go up for sale in the area typically receive multiple offers, Realtors say.

3. Greece

The largest suburb in Monroe County with over 90,000 residents, Greece is seeing an uptick in home sales and prices. The median sale price in Greece was up 6.4 percent in 2017 from $117,500 to $125,000 and sales increased 3.4 percent for the year.

The town is diverse in its array of housing options, from new builds to older subdivisions in the Dewey/Stone area. It also provides different lifestyle options with older neighborhoods being walkable and the larger subdivision tracts featuring homes with all the bells and whistles. There is plenty of shopping and dining from the small mom and pop pizza shops to the Mall at Greece Ridge.

4. Webster and Webster Village

Webster — “Where life is worth living,” as the town’s motto states — is on the eastern end of Monroe County off Lake Ontario. The area has seen much development, yet it retains its local charm with a village filled with local stores and eateries.

Home sales were up 6.5 percent in 2017 in Webster and the median price increased 6.3 percent from $182,500 to $194,000.

Brian Hegedorn’s family has been in the Webster area since the 1850s when it was largely farmland, and he continues to live in Webster with his partner and their son.

“I’ve traveled all over the country. Webster is and always will be home,” he said.

More: Rochester housing market: Median home prices and other data for 5 east-side suburbs

5. 19th Ward

Urban by Choice is the motto of this city neighborhood on the west side of the Genesee River. It is one of the city’s largest neighborhoods, with boundaries north to Chili Avenue, east to the Genesee River, west to Interstate 390 and south to Scottsville Road. The area is home to Genesee Valley Park. There are many housing options in the area from cottages to mansions. It has become a popular area for people who enjoy city living, as well as among developers who are fixing up dilapidated homes to resell or for rental.

The walkable neighborhood is filled with distinctive, locally owned shops and friendly eateries such as The Arnett Cafe and Livie’s Jamaican Restaurant.

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Rochester’s poverty talk has to include evictions – www.rochestercitynewspaper.com

Rochester’s poverty talk has to include evictions

by: Jake Clapp

Matthew Desmond gets straight to the point in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Evicted.” “We have failed to fully appreciate how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty,” he writes in the book’s prologue. “Not everyone living in a distressed neighborhood is associated with gang members, parole officers, employers, social workers, or pastors. But nearly all of them have a landlord.”

In the book, Desmond, a professor of sociology at Princeton University, profiles eight families in Milwaukee, following their struggles with finding, and keeping, housing. To do this, in 2008, he first moved into a trailer park and then into a rooming house and took a full-time job as a fieldworker. Desmond — who’ll be in Rochester May 9 for a sold-out lecture hosted by PathStone — paints a deep picture of how eviction leads to poverty, and how that cycle keeps people trapped.

Last year, Desmond and a team of researchers at Princeton started The Eviction Lab, a database collecting eviction data, the first of its kind in the country. To date, 83 million records from 48 states and the District of Columbia have been added. The lab wants to make the data accessible to the public, and there are easy-to-use tools that allow you to look at local eviction rates, demographic information, and make comparisons with other municipalities.

The Eviction Lab doesn’t yet have data on Rochester, but New York State reported 38,055 evictions in 2016. And according to Rochester City Court information, there were 3,510 evictions in Rochester in 2017.

In reality, the number of evictions in Rochester is probably higher, says Susan Boss, executive director of the Housing Council at PathStone, since that number reflects only evictions that went through the court process. The only legal way for a landlord to evict a tenant is through a court process, but techniques like changing the locks, removing furniture, or even just threatening court action are often used to get people to move.

The Housing Council, which runs a hotline for housing issues, received 1,167 calls in 2017 related to eviction, from tenants and landlords regarding everything from threats of eviction to what a family can do once it’s been evicted.

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The Hotel Cadillac is shutting down. What will happen to its tenants? – Democrat & Chronicle

The Hotel Cadillac is shutting down. What will happen to its tenants?

by: David Andreatta

For year-round residents of the Hotel Cadillac, the first shoe dropped somewhere along the way. It fell to homelessness, unemployment, drugs, or whatever form of desperation prodded them to settle in Rochester’s most resilient and infamous boardinghouse.

“You fall back on the easiest place,” Martin Doty, 56, who’s lived in the hotel on and off for eight years, explained between drags on a cigarette. “For a lot of people here, this was the easiest place.”

The other shoe dropped Wednesday, when residents learned from management they have 30 days to get out.

After 91 years of accommodating guests at the corner of Chestnut and Elm streets, from trendsetters and tourists in its early years to the tenants living on the margins of society today, the hotel is scheduled to close on May 25.

Where they’ll live is now a question on the minds of many of the more than 20 people who call the Cadillac home.

“There are people been here 20 years and more, don’t know what to do,” said Ronnie Klebes, 77, who’s lived in the hotel for eight years.

A spokeswoman for DHD Ventures, the development company that bought the Cadillac last year, said the building will remain a hotel. Whether it will retain its name and cater to the same clientele, she couldn’t say.

But Cadillac residents knew the answer. Over the last couple years, they’ve watched DHD Ventures transform a decrepit brick office building behind the hotel into glass-paneled luxury apartments that rent for up to $3,300 a month.

“No way in hell is it going to be for low-income,” Doty said. “They want to attract rich people downtown.”

‘This place is hell!’

We spoke outside the Cadillac after I had checked into a room and felt I’d been robbed. My room, number 705, cost $58.90 — $49 a night, plus $9.90 tax.

For that price, I got two beds with bedbugs, a broken television and a microwave encrusted with brownish-yellow crud and leftover bacon. The windows were painted white.

When I turned on the light, a mouse tumbled out of the busted air-conditioning unit and scurried under a bed. His turds were in every corner of the linoleum-tiled room.

In the bathroom, the window wouldn’t close and the faucets leaked. Scrawled into the plaster was the word “HELP.”

I was followed to my room by a woman named Caroline Johnson, who goes by “Rosie.” She wanted to party. She lit up a cigar in the elevator and said, “There’s a liquor store down the street.”

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In 83 Million Eviction Records, a Sweeping and Intimate New Look at Housing in America www.nytimes.com

In 83 Million Eviction Records, a Sweeping and Intimate New Look at Housing in America

by: Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui

RICHMOND, Va. – Before the first hearings on the morning docket, the line starts to clog the lobby of the John Marshall Courthouse. No cellphones are allowed inside, but many of the people who’ve been summoned don’t learn that until they arrive. “Put it in your car,” the sheriff’s deputies suggest at the metal detector. That advice is no help to renters who have come by bus. To make it inside, some tuck their phones in the bushes nearby.

This courthouse handles every eviction in Richmond, a city with one of the highest eviction rates in the country, according to new data covering dozens of states and compiled by a team led by the Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond.

Two years ago, Mr. Desmond turned eviction into a national topic of conversation with “Evicted,” a book that chronicled how poor families who lost their homes in Milwaukee sank ever deeper into poverty. It became a favorite among civic groups and on college campuses, some here in Richmond. Bill Gates and former President Obama named it among the best books they had read in 2017, and it was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

But for all the attention the problem began to draw, even Mr. Desmond could not say how widespread it was. Surveys of renters have tried to gauge displacement, but there is no government data tracking all eviction cases in America. Now that Mr. Desmond has been mining court records across the country to build a database of millions of evictions, it’s clear even in his incomplete national picture that they are more rampant in many places than what he saw in Milwaukee.

Mr. Desmond’s team found records for nearly 900,000 eviction judgments in 2016, meaning landlords were given the legal right to remove at least one in 50 renter households in the communities covered by this data. That figure was one in 25 in Milwaukee and one in nine in Richmond. And one in five renter households in Richmond were threatened with eviction in 2016. Their landlords began legal proceedings, even if those cases didn’t end with a lasting mark on a tenant’s record.

For landlords, these numbers represent a financial drain of unpaid rent; for tenants, a looming risk of losing their homes.

In Richmond, most of those evicted never made it to a courtroom. They didn’t appear because the process seemed inscrutable, or because they didn’t have lawyers to navigate it, or because they believed there is not much to say when you simply don’t have the money. The median amount owed was $686.

Inside the courtroom, cases sometimes brought in bulk by property managers are settled in minutes when defendants aren’t present.

“The whole system works on default judgments and people not showing up,” said Martin Wegbreit, director of litigation at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society. “Imagine if every person asked for a trial. The system would bog down in a couple of months.”

The consequences of what happens here then spread across the city. The Richmond public school system reroutes buses to follow children from apartments to homeless shelters to pay-by-the-week motels. City social workers coach residents on how to fill out job applications when they have no answer for the address line. Families lose their food stamps and Medicaid benefits when they lose the permanent addresses where renewal notices are sent.

“An eviction isn’t one problem,” said Amy Woolard, a lawyer and the policy coordinator at the Legal Aid Justice Center in town. “It’s like 12 problems.”

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Well-priced ranch homes are hot in Rochester-area’s real estate market – www.democrat&chronicle.com

Well-priced ranch homes are hot in Rochester-area’s real estate market

by: Mary Chao

For the past 30 years, Carla Palumbo enjoyed city living in the Lyell-Otis neighborhood in her two-story home on Glide Street. The diverse neighborhood is close to downtown and near amenities, such as Olindo’s Cash and Carry, where she would stock up on imported foods from Italy.

Palumbo, 60, decided a few years ago that the time had come to look into moving into one-story living. She began working in earnest with her Realtor, Carm Lonardo of ReMax Realty Group, last fall to search for that perfect ranch home with the criteria that it should be in a location close to downtown, where she works as CEO of the Legal Aid Society, and should not exceed $170,000.

After getting beat out on two deals, Palumbo was able to snare a buy on her perfect ranch home in Greece on Heritage Drive with an asking price of $139,900 for 1,316 square feet of living space. She moved quickly with Lonardo to write an offer and just closed on the deal last week.

Smaller existing single-family ranch homes that are in updated condition and priced well are in high demand in the current market as people seek easy-to-care-for homes, Lonardo said.

“They’re very popular and go quickly,” Lonardo said.

Ranch homes are especially popular with the baby boomer generation looking to downsize, Lonardo added.

Palumbo’s home in Greece was built in 1963 and features refinished hardwood flooring. The living room features a curved wall — a 1960s retro touch.

There is also a formal dining room and a family room that’s adjacent to the kitchen. The entire kitchen area has been remodeled with granite counters, an island with seating, a subway-tiled backsplash and all new stainless appliances.

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City threatens to take control of ignored apartment buildings – rochestercitynewspapers.com

City threatens to take control of ignored apartment buildings

by: Jake Clapp

Peter Hungerford is starting to become a well-known name to people who follow housing issues in Rochester. Hungerford owns several buildings where tenants say that they have been living in bad, unaddressed conditions, like sewage backing up in their apartments, mold, and electrical problems.

Last month, tenants at 447 Thurston Road started a rent strike. And on Monday, renters at 967 Chili Avenue, some of whom are joining the rent strike, held a small rally to highlight their own building’s problems, including a ceiling falling apart in the building’s entrance way, reports of infestation, and broken windows. The 15-unit building currently has 15 outstanding code violations.

Those actions have gotten the City of Rochester’s attention. The city has threatened to take five of Hungerford’s buildings into receivership if past-due violations aren’t addressed. Through receivership, the city or a third party would take control of the building, collect rent from tenants, and get repairs made in the building. Hungerford was given an April 1 deadline.

“What we’ve seen is that when tenants have gone public in other buildings, the city has responded,” said Ryan Acuff, an organizer with the City-Wide Tenant Union. “And through that, the landlord is taking certain things more seriously.”

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