ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Local renters are calling for Rochester housing to be more affordable.
The city of Rochester is one of the top 10 cities in the US with the highest rental growth.
Now local tenants unions are pushing for five reforms to be passed to protect families across the city.
“In the city of Rochester, 8,000 evictions were filed each year prior to the pandemic, which is six times the national average. One in four Rochester tenants moves every year, which really destabilizes our community, ”said Ritti Singh of Rochester’s City-Wide Tenants Union.
As the eviction moratorium expires in late August, local tenants unions are urging city officials to adopt a series of reforms to keep thousands of residents in their homes.
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A large part of the reforms is a bill called Eviction Protection For A Good Reason, which essentially says that landlords must demonstrate that there is a “good reason” for evicting tenants.
“One good reason would be to create a system whereby landlords must demonstrate that there is a good cause for an eviction, which could include non-payment, breach of lease or harassment,” said Singh.
Albany became the first city in the state to pass the charity bill this week. Now Rochester’s City-Wide Tenant Union and other housing advocates are urging the city to do the same.
Experts say one in four renter moves in the city every year and more than 1,200 tenants per year face evictions – evicted for reasons other than not paying rent.
Guarding against evictions would protect tenants facing evictions – by giving tenants the right to extend their lease, strengthening their right to organize and comment on their terms – while also providing protection from large rent increases.
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“It’s very important because it gives tenants the ability to have a voice and tell the truth to power without fear of being targeted and retaliatory,” said Clianda Florence-Yarde, one Tenant in Rochester.
Florence-Yarde is a mother of three who was evicted from her home and arrested last December. She said she didn’t pay rent because her landlord wasn’t going to fix the problems in her home. Florence-Yarde was homeless for 6 months and the charity bill would have helped.
“It would have continued the relationship I had with the tenants ‘union and the guidance I received, it would have given the tenants’ union the opportunity to come to the table with me,” said Florence-Yarde. “Everyone could have sat at the table, all voices could have been heard, and we could have developed a concrete plan, a timely plan, to ensure that everyone had their say.”
Florence-Yarde said the charity law would also allow the community to know that there are resources there for those who need them.
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Under this law, landlords could still terminate tenants for non-payment, breach of their lease, or harassment.
The City Wide Tenants Union says the reforms they are pushing for will go a long way towards improving the city as a whole.
“The city of Rochester is in crisis when it comes to education, violence and instability. Housing is the foundation of a healthy community, ”said Singh. “When we have stable housing, we have strong relationships, we have strong families, that will only increase the liveliness and the health and safety of the people here.”
The City-Wide Tenant Union is also pushing for Rochester to tackle four more reforms: (posted on the group’s Facebook page)
- Approval of the Tenant Emergency Protection Act: This would enable rent stabilization and improved evacuation and maintenance protection for around 30,000 residents.
- Prohibition of evictions from real estate without a residence permit: Requiring a C or O for evacuation would give landlords a greater incentive to carry out repairs.
- Adoption of Rochester Tenants’ Rights to Legal Assistance: Adoption of a local ordinance that guarantees every tenant the right to legal assistance in evacuation and housing cases.
- Exit 485-A Luxury Real Estate Tax Break: Stop the city from giving big developers millions of dollars to build luxury homes at market prices with the 485-A tax break, which can drive up rental costs .
The City Wide Tenants Union hopes to pass it within the next six months. They say many city council members have already expressed their support.
Right now, New Jersey and the City of Baltimore already have evictions in place for good reason. Cities like Buffalo, Syracuse, and Ithaca are considering doing the same.