New Initiative Aims To Renovate Vacant Rochester Homes Into Affordable Housing


Real estate industry

It’s no secret Rochester, NY has been facing difficulties providing enough affordable housing for residents. It’s for this reason that Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has announced a new initiative to turn Rochester’s vacant homes into affordable housing properties.

According to 13 WHAM News, a new housing initiative called Neighbors for Neighbors will give Rochesterians the ability to buy a so-called “zombie” home (a vacant house). The homebuyers will then be given a subsidy to renovate the home and rent it out to tenants at an affordable rate.

“The Neighbors for Neighbors program really is a win-win for our community,” said Warren.

Compared to the 200,720 timeshare units in the whole country, there are approximately 2,100 vacant homes in Rochester, NY alone. And up to 1,300 of them have stood vacant for over a year.

One home, purchased by Rochester resident Cynthia Silver, on Madison St. has sat vacant in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood for over 10 years. Additionally, it’s important to note that studies show that the average amount it takes to sell a house in the U.S. is approximately $15,200.

The goal of the Neighbors for Neighbors initiative is to give residents like Silver the ability to help their neighbors in the Rochester community. Another strategy could be to use shipping containers. There are around 17 million shipping containers in the world, with only 6 million of these in use. So approximately 11 million containers are currently unused and could be converted into homes for people.

Silver says the program isn’t set up for residents who are looking to get into real estate. Instead, it’s to bring Rochester families into safer neighborhoods and to use the tools and properties the city already has available.

Many of the vacant homes only need a few repairs (some major, some minor) to get them rental-ready. The most common, smaller roof repairs cost between $150 to $400 on average.

“By helping our families find a roof over their head, we are also helping them access jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods, better educational opportunities and most importantly a brighter future for themselves and their families,” said Warren.

Rochester residents who are interested in being a part of the Neighbors for Neighbors program must agree to rent out the property they renovate to those who make less than 80% of the city’s median income. The renters of the property will pay more than 30% of their income in rent.

Other projects for affordable housing in the city have also been announced this year. In July, the Rochester City Council approved the modernization of Cobbs Hill Village to transform the area into an affordable senior housing community.

Also in July, KeyBank announced the development of a 50-unit affordable housing property at Charlotte Square on the Loop.

KeyBank has provided $15.5 million to finance the project, but cost reductions may be possible by recycling the metalworking fluids used during the project. Recycling metalworking fluid can save on waste volume reduction up to 8%.

The timeline for the Charlotte Square on the Loop project has yet to be determined. But developers say the goal of the property is to provide affordable housing to residents who are homeless or re-adapting to civilian life after being in prison.

The Neighbors for Neighbors program will be funded through a state grant and administered through the Rochester Land Bank Corporation.

“To provide for this neighborhood and this community,” said Silver, “to put these houses back to the way they used to be and be quality homes for people, just, you know, it’s the best.”