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Mayor Lovely Warren today released the second video episode of the 2021 State of the City, which discusses the creation of a Housing First Trust Fund as part of her Equity & Recovery Agenda (ERA). The Housing First Trust Fund is intended to address historic racism and inequity in the housing market by increasing homeownership among city residents; providing affordable housing units and emergency assistance to renters; and supporting a dedicated housing court. The proposed trust fund would build on Rochester's successful creation of 3,800 affordable homes for over 9,000 residents over the past seven years. The entirety of the State of the City and the ERA agenda can be found at cityofrochester.gov/SOTC2021.
"While Housing First has traditionally referred to helping our homeless, I believe that a safe, affordable and sustainable home is the first, and most critical step to achieving equity for all. Hence, the Housing First Trust Fund," said Mayor Warren. "If we want Rochester's families and children to be successful in their careers and education, then they must first have the security that a home provides. Lifting people up starts with ensuring they have a place to call home."
Affordable housing has been a top priority of the Warren administration. Most notably, under the Mayor's leadership, the affordable housing standard was lowered to 30% of Area Median Income (AMI) to ensure that new development truly assisted people in need. Prior to this achievement, many so-called affordable homes were priced out of reach for city residents.
In addition to increasing access to affordable homes, a number of notable improvements to create safer, more vibrant neighborhoods have created the foundation for the Housing First Trust Fund and the ERA agenda; including:
- Reducing vacant structures by 36% since 2015;
- Completing the Inner Loop East Project with affordable, workforce and market rate housing; generating $229 million in private investment from $22 million in public investment;
- Providing over $6.5 million in emergency assistance for renters;
- Creating over 5,600 jobs and over $340 million of investment on average in Rochester over the last eight years; more than double the eight years prior.
"A Housing Trust Fund will help Rochester's residents achieve equity and fairness by creating more jobs; safer, more vibrant neighborhoods and greater educational opportunities," said Mayor Warren. "I look forward to working with our City Council and our local State Legislature delegation to make the trust fund a reality."
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The Housing First Trust Fund, as highlighted in the video, would be a dedicated revenue source to fund efforts to improve residents' access to stable, affordable and quality housing. While efforts are ongoing to fully define the initiatives and sources of funding, a number of potential goals include:
- Provide funding to the Rochester Land Bank to acquire higher-quality properties for owner occupancy programs.
- Work with the renters of two-family homes to help them acquire the property, become owners and accelerate their financial growth to stabilize city neighborhoods.
- Allow the Land Bank to offer properties directly to residents seeking to buy a home without them having to competitively bid against investors.
- Provide new owner-occupants with $24,999 rehabilitation grants, as well as financial literacy and financial planning assistance to ensure long-term stability and wealth building.
- Strengthen neighborhoods by offering any City-owned tax lien acquisitions via lottery for one dollar to residents on the same street. This would allow homeowners to build wealth and strengthen stability of city neighborhoods. Owners of these properties would be eligible for rehabilitation grants and other services to ensure the creation of safe and affordable rental properties.
- Expand emergency-based debt and rent relief to qualifying residents. This will help prevent evictions and foreclosures and stop temporary financial crises from becoming negatively life-altering events.
- Reduce owner and tenant utility costs by making energy efficiency improvements in newly constructed or renovated housing for low-income residents.
- Fund supportive services within housing court to help families overcome problems related to eviction.
Chapter Two of the State of the City video series focuses on two notable and ongoing initiatives which could benefit from the Housing First Trust Fund: the Urban League of Rochester's Lease to Purchase Program, which is building 41 homes across southwest Rochester; and the city's Core Housing Owner Incentive Exemption, or CHOICE program, which Mayor Warren proposes expanding to create new owner-occupied homes in city neighborhoods.
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"I am excited about the Urban League's unique project because it will allow families that don't have the ability to make a large down payment to achieve home ownership and build wealth," said Mayor Warren. "The CHOICE program, once expanded, will allow homeowners to benefit from tax incentives that before only benefitted big developers. CHOICE expansion will level the playing field and make new homes in our neighborhoods more available and more affordable than before."
This second episode continues to emphasize the need for equitable marijuana legalization to ensure a dedicated funding stream for projects like the trust fund, aimed at lifting up those most oppressed by its criminalization.
"Cities and neighborhoods most impacted and devastated by the criminalization and sale of illegal drugs should directly benefit from the taxation of marijuana," said Mayor Warren "Many of our neighborhoods, and most of our families, were directly impacted by the mass incarceration and disinvestment in communities of color. I continue to urge the State Legislature to direct these monies to the City of Rochester, so we can immediately set up a Housing First Trust Fund to help our most vulnerable residents achieve their dreams."
The State of the City video series highlighting Mayor Warren's Equity and Recovery Agenda will continue next month with an episode highlighting jobs and economic development. The first episode of the State of the City unveiling the ERA agenda can be found at cityofrochester.gov/SOTC2021.
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