Facing a crisis in affordable housing
by: Editorial Board
You might not see it from your own front porch, but the Rochester region has a housing crisis on its hands.
One of the reasons you don’t know about it could be buried in a section of your town’s zoning ordinance, barring construction of higher density and multifamily housing. That measure keeps developers from building affordable apartments, because they won’t be able to benefit from the economy of scale needed to keep rents low. Efforts to change zoning for affordable housing are typically thwarted by the not-in-my-backyard movement.
This and many other barriers have resulted in a serious shortage of housing for the 167,600 people living below the poverty line — or the even greater number of people who are hovering just above it.
We must, as one poverty researcher from Harvard University notes, “pull housing back to the center of the poverty debate.” That begins at the local level, where the decisions of policy makers, landlords, developers and citizens can have a dramatic impact.
The affordable housing crisis is creating a great burden on our public resources. For example, over the next five years, New York state is set to spend $10 billion of our tax dollars to create housing for low-income residents. Our federal government spends an enormous amount on rent subsidies and other assistance. Even with expenditures like these, government isn’t coming close to meeting the need.
That creates an even greater cost — measured in lives. There are tens of thousands of children in our community who are growing up without safe and stable homes. When the rent doesn’t get paid, they are evicted. Their family moves — often to another rundown apartment in another decaying neighborhood. Or they end up homeless. In the process, they repeatedly switch schools and lose supportive relationships. In short, they follow a tumultuous path that almost guarantees a lifetime of struggle. And we all will continue to face the dire effects of poverty, which remain on the rise in the city of Rochester, as well as the nine-county region that surrounds it.
No, you might not be able to see this from your front porch. But, that does not mean you are powerless to do something about it at the polls. Support candidates who are committed to addressing this crisis.
Editor’s Note: This is the final installment in a three-part series of editorials the Editorial Board published this week in response to a new report from the Rochester Area Community Foundation and ACT Rochester, showing the continued growth of poverty in our nine-county region. The board is seeking to encourage discussion about poverty-related issues by voters and political candidates. To read the entire series, please go to DemocratandChronicle.com/Opinion.