Local homeowner turns unsafe house around after city cracks down on deficient properties

[anvplayer video=”5174592″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. A Rochester woman’s property was vacant, declared unsafe and marked for demolition, but her persistence saved it.

Other properties might not be as lucky because Friday the mayor outlined tougher rules and bigger fines for homes that attract crime. This is what the mayor thinks about vacant homes.

Mayor Malik Evans: They are more likely to be set on fire, are more likely to be used for illegal activities like drug sales and sex trafficking, and ultimately drag down entire neighborhoods.

Here are the three changes he wants to be passed by City Council. First, an official list of any home vacant for 60 days. Second, a landlord-tenant bill of rights, outlining the responsibilities of both. And third, new and larger fines for dangerous properties.

Mayor Malik Evans: And some of these properties, you won’t find them in our surrounding suburbs because they wouldn’t go for it. And we’re not going for it here either.

I investigated the city’s focus on vacant, rundown homes. Hundreds are declared unsafe, the first step in tearing a house down. That’s what happened to a home owned by Debra Washington. I was with her in January when she pleaded her case to the demolition board and then I joined her at her house. It was in rough shape, but she promised me and the city she would fix it.

I went back Friday. The gas and water are hooked up again. There are new windows and new gutters.

Michael Denard, contractor: They did the roof. We’ve had the exterior cleaned up and done the yard work.

Brean: So I just came back from the house.
Debra Washington, property owner: Yeah.
Brean: It’s looking better.
Washington: Thank you! All I said was I just needed the time.

Washington was hurt in a car crash. Then she got Covid. Against the odds, she is saving her home from demolition.

Brean: I think your property is an example that you can bring properties back from the brink.
Washington: Yes, it is.
Brean: It’s possible.
Washington: It is and like I said I never said I wasn’t going to do it.

There is definitely more work to do but Thursday, five months after the house was declared unsafe, Washington applied for a certificate of occupancy. The mayor wants his three changes passed at the City Council meeting in May.