The Affordable Housing Crisis – What We Can Do | Guest Blog by Mary Lupien

Each week on Tuesday and Thursday through October 20th 540Blog will feature guest blog’s from city residents themed around gentrification. Today’s blog comes courtesy of Mary Lupien. Check out Mary’s blog below and be sure to register to attend 540WMain’s

‘Fall 2018 Gentrification Conference // Who Are the Gentrified?

Saturday October 20th // 10am-4pm

Thomas P. Ryan Community Center

The Affordable Housing Crisis – What We Can Do by Mary Lupien

“Without a home, everything else falls apart” —Evicted by Matthew Desmond

I’m scared.  I’m scared for the people of my neighborhood, in my city and for vulnerable people everywhere. There is a very alarming pattern going on in Rochester and across the country:  Rapid Gentrification. Housing prices and rents are skyrocketing and people are being displaced – pushed out of our neighborhoods and out of our cities.

The central factor that fuels the pace at which naturally occurring affordable housing is disappearing is that Rochester and most other cities provide little-to-no protections for tenants and there are few mechanisms in place to preserve permanent affordability in our neighborhoods outside of the “so-called” affordable housing projects.  I say “Affordable, for who?”

Would you be surprised to find out that a tenant on a month-to-month lease can be evicted, given 30 days to vacate, through no fault of their own?  I was.  That is the situation in which many of our citizens find themselves.  Many don’t even know that when their original lease term expired, they were automatically rolled into a month-to-month contract.  (PS: tell everyone you know to ask for a long-term lease)

The main motivation for these evictions is profit.  Current tenants pay a lower rent and have been living in sub-standard conditions begging for repairs from the landlord.  Once an area is perceived to support higher rents, landlords kick the tenants out, renovate and lease or sell to people who can pay more.

I live in the Beechwood neighborhood on Parsells Ave.  This neighborhood had been neglected for years. However, because of a recent influx investment from City Hall’s Focused Investment Initiative (FII) and an involved neighborhood association, the neighborhood is improving and with it – housing prices.

On Hazelwood Ter. – a few streets over – a long-time property owner sold off 14 of his houses to a corporation which promptly issued eviction notices to all its tenants.  Only 2 of those tenants knew they had the right to challenge their eviction in court and were able to remain. However, they had to miss work and school to attend court dates.  The new landlords refuse to fix any of their issues until they move. On Parsells, the house next to us was sold for $41k last year and now, the owner is asking $72k.

This same dynamic is happening in the PLEX neighborhood, Monroe Ave, 19th Ward, Homestead Heights and many other neighborhoods.  This same dynamic is happening in Pittsburg, Chicago, Atlanta, Jackson, Canada, New Zealand.

Being evicted is the leading cause of homelessness

Being evicted is the leading cause of homelessness.  It makes sense however, many of us think of the homeless as being responsible for their situation and that is simply not the case. Displacement breaks up strong communities, causes trauma and stress-induced illness, loss of family stability, loss of employment. It disrupts childrens’ education and can put kids behind in a school system not equipped catch kids who fall through the cracks.  Families that avoid homelessness, are often pushed to the outer ring suburbs where they are more isolated and public transportation is lacking.

What can we do?

  • Stand with the City-wide Tenants Union and help them organize tenants to fight against evictions and improve living conditions.
  • Advocate for the Tenant Protections Platform in Rochester and New York State including Just Cause Eviction, Rent Control and a Housing Court where tenants can initiate court proceedings against a landlord (currently only a landlord can take tenants to court in most situations)
  • Support the work of City Roots Community Land Trust which is creating community ownership of land and pockets of permanently affordable housing in gentrifying neighborhoods and cooperative home-ownership
  • Push Rochester to create a Public Bank which would grant low-interest loans to people who have been historically denied entry into the housing market and access to capital (, based on the sole fact that they have the capacity to pay rent consistently.

About Mary Lupien

Mary Lupien is a community activist, teacher and resident of Beechwood neighborhood in Rochester, NY. 

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