For the past 12 years, the City of Rochester, through regulations, fees and inefficiencies, has made housing too expensive. It’s simple economics of supply and demand: increase the cost of something and you will get less of it. Any 5th grader understands that.

This backward approach is creating sprawl, hurting our economy and, worse, preventing people from finding the housing they want and can afford.

People want to own, not rent. Consider that for every $1,000 increase in the cost of housing, 140 families are priced out. So when you hear that 30,000 people commute in to Rochester, you can start to see why. So we get their traffic but don’t get their taxes. Not a smart choice.

How do we fix this?

1. Simple political willpower. 

First, it takes a champion. I will be that person. Let’s stop just talking about it. Prioritize work-force housing and work to lower the cost of housing generally. The city prioritized the creation of housing downtown to fill a need, and they did it. It was all high end, but, with the political will, it was done. Let’s do the same for our workers.

2. Add a line-item in the budget for market-rate and lower cost housing.

We need to put our money where our mouth is – finally. We’ve had over a decade of lip service. Let’s put some money behind this and get it done.

3. Reduce permit and access fees. Nearly one-third of the cost of construction are regulatory fees! Land prices are also a large, contributing factor to the cost of housing.

By allowing for growth accross the city; with housing of all types and for all income levels, we reduce the market pressure on the housing people want and can afford. Property taxes go down, cost of housing goes down, and so we entice people to stay and put down roots.

4. Embrace tax increment financing for below market rate projects, to help those organizations focused on work-force priced housing a reality. Lets also use TIF what it was invented for: fixing blight. We must help those who are living in appalling conditions in Rochester.

5. The city owns a lot of land within our boundaries. Rather than just cataloguing it for our own budget and maintenance purposes, lets look hard at putting that land to good use.

6. Reorganize the development staff to include someone dedicated to work-force priced and lower cost housing. Time is money and if their projects can be approved quicker, that lowers the overall cost of each housing unit

Those are my ideas for correcting the out-of-balance housing market in Rochester. If you hear someone talk about the need for affordable housing, ask them what they have done. Is their past a record of making housing more expensive or less? You can’t be for affordable housing while pushing for regulations and ordinances that increase the cost of housing.

See my answers to some specific questions on housing:

Housing Q&A

If you want a lot more details on my thoughts and ideas, read my essay here:

The need for balanced growth