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City of Rochester

A Rochester housing project that made the Coburn-McCain list of bad stimulus projects is expanding.

According to legislation submitted to City Council, El Camino Estates will enter its second phase. The second phase looks very much like the first.

Rochester Cornerstone Group and Ibero American Development Corporation plan to build 25 homes in the Conkey Avenue neighborhood for $6.3 million. That’s about $250,000 per home in an impoverished neighborhood where the median home price is less than $50,000.

These aren’t palatial homes for the money. They’re modest three and four bedroom houses with less than 2,000 square feet of space. The houses will initially be for rent and offered for sale after 15 years.

As in the first phase, the developers get a $800,000 fee.

The project is heavily subsidized by taxpayers. The city is proposing a payment in lieu of taxes. El Camino Estates is relying on a $1.2 million state grant and a city loan.

The developers have explained the project costs so much because of strict regulations surrounding government grants, including labor agreements and environmental standards.

Of course, this project is not just about dollars and cents. It’s about improving a neighborhood and providing safe, affordable housing to low-income residents. No one is going to build houses on Conkey Avenue without subsidies.

I’d like to see a long term study on El Camino’s impact in that census tract and the broader neighborhood. Has crime been reduced? Have neighboring property values increased? Has the population of the neighborhood rebounded? Fifty new houses may provide the critical mass needed to help the area turn the corner, but we shouldn’t make assumptions when the costs are so high.

10 Responses to Wise Investment? El Camino, Part Two

  1. Very interesting experiment… My hypothesize is the best hope for urban America is a “Marshall Plan” type commitment to rebuilding our cities… when you get past all the baloney rhetoric, it is the concentration of poverty in urban areas that creates the illusion of failing schools… finding a way to create a more “lower need” environment in cities could go a long way to revitalizing urban life…

    Just my 2 cents…

    • Since this is low-income housing, not sure it does anything about concentration of poverty. Now, if the pretty new homes attract other investment in the neighborhood, that could make a difference.

  2. February 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm CoolGrrl28 responds:

    Why can’t these funds be used to help homeowners fix their homes, insetead of spending such a crazy amount that won’t be seen as a return anytime soon!??!!?? Very frustrating to read about this as a low-income taxpayer…

  3. This is classic government. Coolers is right to be disturbed when $50k per existing home in the city could revolutionize the current curb appeal conditions. When our government meddles where for profit enterprise should act we get this type of mess.

  4. $250,000 per home?
    Seems crazy to do that when you can buy a home in that area for under $30,000. You could buy 5 houses and have them Completely remodeled for that price.
    Another example of government trying to fix a situation by throwing obscene amounts of money at it.

  5. February 4, 2012 at 8:41 pm Mittens responds:

    Who is going to buy a house in the absolute worst neighborhood of the city for 250k? No one! Not to mention these suburban style houses don’t fit the style of the neighborhood and are just plain ugly.

  6. February 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm tony mittiga responds:

    These projects can take place because the funding, coming from State and Federal sources, is considered “free”. I hurts my civic morale, however, to see public money spent in a way that is so out of scale with any possible achievement. Any claims of stimulative effects on the neighborhood, and a net increase in property taxes, are not well founded. The construction of #8 school on Conkey, and the housing developed by the City on Conkey in the past have not achieved that benefit either.

  7. Actually creating living wage jobs would alleviate poverty and make this country come alive. But in the mean time, people need a good place to live. But it’s interesting the pressure low income people are under to live with other poor people, no more housing projects in the suburbs for years and years.

  8. February 5, 2012 at 7:33 am Don Murphy responds:

    This is a major scam that has been going on for years. I was on the Board of a Neighborhood group with the inner city for years, and active during the area when we first started implementing this sort of plan. Twenty plus years later experience tells me it has done nothing to improve any of the neighborhoods and has been a huge waste of taxpayer funds. Experience also tells me that, as suggested by another reader, buying and refurbishing the existing real estate is much more cost effective.

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