Consumer Alert: Housing advocates rally at City Hall for rent control
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — What would it take for you to go to a rally with temperatures in the teens? For about 30 housing advocates, the rally was so important they stood outside City Hall for almost an hour.
News10NBC’s Deanna Dewberry was there to find out what the fuss was all about.
The issue was all about rent control, or rent stabilization, as it’s officially called. According to one rent tracking website, Rentometer, from the fourth quarter of 2022 to the same period in 2023, rent in Rochester went up 11%.
The City-Wide Tenant Union of Rochester believes rent control is the answer — but it’s not without controversy. For those at the rally, the fight for rent control is a fight about which they’re so passionate, they were willing brave Wednesday’s wind chill of zero.
“The solutions are there. The data is there. All we need now is bold action,” says Rochester City Councilmember Kim Smith.
The action they want is for the City Council to approve a vacancy study that would determine if Rochester is eligible for rent control policies. Former renters like Andrea Clarke say those policies are essential.
“When I lived in an apartment in a studio, the rent went up $20 every year because they said it had to reach market value,” Clarke explains.
Clarke moved out when she could no longer afford rent, and now relies on the generosity of relatives. Tales like that of eviction caused by rent increases brought City Councilmember Mary Lupien to tears.
“So when anyone sees a big pile of stuff on the street, that is one family whose life has been destroyed,” says Lupien.
And those stories are not unique.
You may remember Deanna showed you a scenario all too common for Rochesterians. For example, let’s call our example subject “Joe.” Let’s say Joe is single and brings home the median household income of $44,156. After taxes, his monthly income is $2,767. According to rent.com, the average price for a studio apartment in Rochester is $1,137. That’s 41% of Joe’s monthly income after tax. So after paying the rest of his bills, Joe often has more month than money. Now, let’s say Joe’s lease is up and he faces an 11% increase in rent — which is $125. Joe’s rent is now $1,262 — 45% of his monthly income. And now that studio is likely out of his budget.
But, a study last year by the National Apartment Association indicates rent control is not the answer, pointing to its study published last year that shows rent control desensitizes investors from building new housing, leading to housing shortages. Leaders with the City-Wide Tenant Union disagree.
“Multiple municipalities in New Jersey have had rent control for decades, and New Jersey is actually experiencing a housing boom,” says Ritti Singh with the City-Wide Tenant Union of Rochester.
Having housing for all is a goal without debate. How to accomplish that, is the question. Now it’s in the hands of the City Council.
If it approves a vacancy study the City must have a vacancy rate of less thnn 5% to be eligible for rent control.
Deanna will be following this closely.