ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Mayor Malik Evans announced a series of recommendations he received from the Housing Quality Task Force, first established in February.

The group had 90 business days to submit a report of those recommendations with a mission to identify areas where housing quality can be addressed specifically in the short-term.

“I’m happy to say that when we presented these actions to the Mayor, on last Thursday as you heard, on the 89th day, he was not only very recepetive but was also very clear that these things will start immediately. Very quickly,” says Carol Wheeler, Co-Chair of the Housing Quality Task Force, who also serves as the Manager of Housing for the City of Rochester.

The final report includes 16 recommendations across five topics. One proposal includes increasing the scale and effectiveness of the Rochester Land Bank; another suggestion, with action already underway, calls for creating a housing attorney. This is something Mayor Evans says will add “teeth” to the City’s ability to have recourse in court when dealing with slumlords.

“To me that is a no-brainer. We’re working on getting the lawyer hired. I think that that is key. We have Housing Court which is already up and running. I think that that is aboslutely one of the most important ones we can move on. We want to be able to do that,” Mayor Evans says.

Earlier this month, two members on the Task Force withdrew their participation, citing concerns that the group did not reflect the needs of tenants and homeless residents of Rochester. Those members are Liz McGriff, representing the City-Wide Tenant Union, and Stacy Jernigan, who was appointed to represent the Rochester Homeless Union.

A statement from the City-Wide Tenant Union can be found below.

Oscar Brewer is a single father and a tenant living in what he calls a slum property. He says the task force lacks representation from tenants themselves.

“I’m calling out today the Mayor, I’m asking him to reevaluate his ‘propsoed task force’ of housing quality. Invite people that are single parents and tenants, struggling working families that is going to work that pay ends meet rent for crappy housing in the city. We’re tired of this,” Brewer says.

The tenant, who is also a tenant representative of the City-Wide Tenant Union, is not confident adding more services will result in any change.

“I don’t care if you’re understaffed or not. You want to talk about understaffed? Our hospitals are understaffed, the homeless shelters are understaffed. My daughter’s mom works full time at a motel where DSS is placing these families that are being evicted. They’re understaffed. City Hall is not understaffed,” Brewer says, passionately.

When asked about the Task Force members who withdrew participation, Mayor Evans says there is always a seat open at the table for future discussions.

A full breakdown of all 16 recommendations, and a list of members of the Housing Quality Task Force can be found here: https://www.cityofrochester.gov/HQTF/

STATEMENT FROM CITY-WIDE TENANT UNION:

Liz McGriff, Campaign Coordinator for the City-Wide Tenant Union:

“Too many Rochester families have been forced to endure horrific conditions due to slumlord greed and City negligence. Rents are skyrocketing, but our housing conditions are only getting worse. Our community desperately needs community-driven solutions that address the root causes of our housing crisis.

We hoped that the Mayor’s Housing Quality Task Force would create transformative, resident-driven solutions. But sady the Rochester residents most directly impacted by our crisis – tenants, homeless residents, and low-income homeowners – were not uplifted through the Housing Quality Task Force. Two out of three Rochester residents are tenants, but landlords outnumbered tenants on the task force. Most of the recommendations that community groups brought up weren’t even brought to a vote. As a result, the recommendations presented today do not address the root causes of our slumlord system. 

There are four pillars to ending Rochester’s slumlord system: 1) Code Enforcement Reform, 2) Tenant Protections and Tenant Empowerment, 3) Resident Control, and 4) Preserving and Creating Extremely Low Income Housing. While the recommendations shared today begin to address code enforcement reform, the other pillars have been neglected.

While we can not endorse these recommendations presented today, we maintain hope that Mayor Evans and the City of Rochester can implement community-driven, transformative policies. Our community must come together and make housing a human right in our city. For any policy to truly address our housing crisis, it must address the root causes and center the people who are most directly impacted.”