City program to fix problems at rental properties a 1st for Upstate NY

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester is implementing a new funding program for renters in the city when landlords don’t fix major issues on their property. City officials say it’s about ensuring a consistent quality of life.

The Emergency Abatement Fund is about $200,000 which is being taken from a larger state grant. It’s designed so the city can help fund repair work that a landlord or owner isn’t tending to. The property owner would later be billed; if the owner doesn’t pay up, the costs would be reflected on their tax bill.  

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News 8 has covered numerous stories showing conditions across the region of properties that have serious code violations. Issues at these dwellings range from rats, to broken heating, to raw sewage and more. This fund will cover issues like those to ensure that the quality of life for residents stays consistent.

Justin Roj with the city says this program is certainly a start to help those in need when those handfuls of landlords aren’t doing, or can’t do their jobs.

“Well, why it’s needed is that in a small number of instances there are landlords that are unresponsive. The vast majority of our landlords do a good job, provide quality housing for their tenants, but there are instances where the landlord might have financial difficulty, for some reason, doesn’t respond immediately to the need, we’re going to be able to step in and help those residents and ensure they have a quality home,” said Roj.

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Barbara Rivera with the City-Wide Tenants Union just moved back into her living facility on Thurston Road after extensive upgrades to improve the quality of life. She thinks the fund is great, but might not be enough once tenants from across Rochester start calling in for fixes.

“It does cost a lot to get these types of things taken care of, and I feel like it’s not enough money to get even one building together,” she says.

Pamela Owens, who is also active with the Union, says there are dozens of properties across Rochester that need immediate quality of life attention. “From what we’re seeing around this city, it’s going to take a lot more than ($200,000). There’s going to be a lot of money involved,” says Owens.

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Roj says as long as landowners pay the money back after urgent repairs are made, it will go back into the fund and the city can continue to make other fixes.

“This is a tool that allows us in these emergency situations to help out residents in need, and make sure landlords are held accountable,” says Roj.

The other city in the state to offer a program like this is New York City, this program being one of the firsts for upstate.

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