Consumer Alert: Monroe County has the 4th highest eviction rate in the state

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A new website launched by Cornell University Buffalo ILR Co-Lab reveals data that ranks Monroe County 4th in the state for the number of evictions. A number of factors contribute to the high number of evictions Monroe County, not the least of which is the poverty rate in the county’s largest city, Rochester.

This data is being released just as a fierce battle is raging in the New York statehouse over a piece of legislation that would limit the number of evictions. The interactive website allows users to find the number of evictions in each legislative district and determine the representative or senator that represents each of those districts. Two Rochester-area legislators represent districts with the 10 highest rates of eviction. Those are Jeremy Cooney and Demond Meeks. Meeks supports the bill. Cooney does not.

Rochester is home to some of the poorest neighborhoods in the state of New York. In fact, census data indicates that two of the five poorest zip codes in the state are in the Flower City – 14605 and 14608. So it likely comes as no surprise that Monroe County is near the top of a list of areas with the highest eviction rates in New York. Rensselaer tops the list with 11 evictions per 100 renting households, followed by the Bronx, Schenectady, Niagara and Monroe is one of five counties that ties for 4th with 8 evictions per 100 renting households.

“It didn’t surprise me but it kind of showed what we’ve been saying all the time,” said Liz McGriff, the campaign coordinator for city-wide tenant union.

The union has long pushed for a piece of legislation called “Good cause eviction.” If passed, it would prevent landlords from evicting a tenant without a designated good cause, like failure to pay rent. It also would limit how much landlords can raise rents, forcing them to justify a rent increase of more than 3%.

“It gives the tenant a defense when the rent does go up too high, and they’re not able to pay.” says McGriff.

Joyce Nelson says she’s been unfairly evicted, and when we met her last spring, she was living in a home with a grapefruit-sized hole in the roof.

Nelson lives in Cooney’s district, a district that’s 9th in the state for the rate of evictions. But, Cooney does not support good cause eviction legislation.

“You pass legislation like Good Cause Eviction where property owners are very worried and they say, ‘You know, one more thing the city of Rochester has done to me, I’m out,” said Cooney, a Democrat representing the 56th Senate district.

And he believes it would ultimately drive small landlords out of the market, reducing the number of rental properties in Rochester.

The tenant union believes there’s another reason.

“He got real estate funding for his campaign,” said McGriff.

Cooney got a campaign contribution of $11,800 from the Real Estate Board of NY, the state’s leading real estate lobby group. He received the maximum contribution allowed under law. But Cooney strongly rejects the notion that campaign money is swaying his vote.

“That’s illegal, unethical, and wrong. and I certainly wouldn’t take a campaign donation for voting one way on a policy or another,” Cooney argued.

The battle over that policy continues and could be decided on in as little as two weeks. Good Cause Eviction is currently included as part of the New York senate’s budget proposal, but much can happen before the two legislative bodies agree on a budget. The budget is due by midnight on April 1.