Consumer Alert: Monroe County Executive Adam Bello unveils a plan to create affordable housing

Consumer Alert: Monroe executive unveils affordable-housing plan

Consumer Alert: Monroe executive unveils affordable-housing plan

This Consumer Alert takes a look at Rochester’s housing crisis and the Monroe County executive’s plans to address it. Adam Bello held a press conference Tuesday to outline a four-pronged plan.  It’s expensive, $7.8 million of Monroe County’s American Rescue Plan funding. But it could be effective if executed well.

As I listened to the press conference, I thought about a phone call I got Tuesday morning. I spent a half-hour on the phone with a mother of three. She makes $18 an hour.  I did the math, and after taxes that’s about $2.000 a month.  Right now, she’s living in a rented house that’s a potential fire hazard because her electric outlets in the kitchen don’t work. She has to run extension cords from other rooms so she can cook and run the fridge.  And her landlord won’t fix it. That’s the reality for our city’s poor.

So, the Monroe County executive’s plan has the following four programs:

  • The housing search navigator and after care program.  These navigators will help tenants find housing, provide transportation to tour apartments, and provide help with application fees if needed.
  • The landlord incentive program.  It hopes to create up to 1,500 housing units by offering landlords cold hard cash if they’re willing to rent to low-income tenants and voucher holders.  Those cash incentives include leasing bonuses, limited warranties against unpaid rent or damages, and referral payments..
  • The rental repair program.  It will provide financial support to landlords to update up to 600 apartments.
  • The landlord-tenant mediation program. it will provide mediators to resolve conflicts and try to prevent evictions.

“So, you can see how these programs can work together,” said Bello. “We’ll work with individuals on the navigation, finding the apartment, taking down the barriers that prevent individuals from moving in. It creates new housing units by repairing units that are offline. It incentivizes landlords with financial assistance to take units that are offline and get them online. And then we provide that sense of security to the landlord and the tenant through a mediation program.”

Would these programs have helped the woman I talked to this Tuesday morning? Perhaps.  It’s possible her landlord would qualify for the repair program.  If he didn’t, perhaps this tenant could get assistance in finding other housing.  Recently she applied for another home that required an $80 application fee.  She then had to wait until her next paycheck to pay rent and had to pay late fees.  Certainly, the program’s assistance with application fees would decrease the financial burden of looking for new housing.

So how well will this new plan be executed?  That is still to be determined.  I’ll continue to follow this issue closely.