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There are growing signs the rent is too damn high in Rochester.

A previous post reported that more than half of Rochester’s renters pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing. That’s considered burdened. Nearly a third of renters are paying more than half their incomes on housing. That’s considered severely burdened.

There are several recent reports showing affordable rental housing is an issue here.

Rents On Way Up

The Buffalo News reported rents in Rochester have risen 7.2 percent in the last three years, to an average rent of $1,154.57. That’s about twice the rate of inflation. This is troubling because many renters have not seen wages grow that much in the last few years. Meantime, the median home price is up only 3.3 percent since 2012.

The Buffalo News speculates rising rents, which are happening across Upstate, are the result of a stabilizing population and new jobs. Many Millennials and empty-nesters do not want to own homes, preferring the flexibility of renting. Many younger people cannot afford to own a home, especially amid tighter lending restrictions.

The Poor Hard Hit

The Urban Institute came out with a study showing there are not enough housing units for extremely low-income households. These are households of four earning no more than $20,000.

The UI found there are only 22 “affordable, adequate and available” apartments for every 100 extremely low-income household. There are more than 35,000 such households in Monroe County. This data includes federal housing subsidies.

Fewer Owning Homes

The census released a fact sheet on Rochester housing in 2013. It shows 64 percent of units were owner-occupied. That’s way down from 74 percent in 2007.

The fact sheet also shows a vacancy rate of 8.2 percent for all units. It’s interesting rents are on the way up with so many vacancies. The question is where are these vacant units. They are not in places in demand, apparently.

Another interesting thing about the fact sheet: The largest category of renters are people 35 to 44 years old.

In conclusion, there seems to be a shift in the local housing market, with more people renting. There also appears to be a shortage of desirable apartments.

Graphic of Day:


Rochester Metro, U.S. Census, 2013

Rochester Metro, U.S. Census, 2013


Links of the Day:


– The owners of Victoire and Murphy’s Law plan to convert Irondequoit library into a restaurant.

– What a life: William B. Konar, Holocaust survivor, successful and generous, dies at 85.

– Why South Carolina’s Confederate flag isn’t at half-mast after church shooting (and why they have one at all).

12 Responses to Do We Have a Rental Crisis?

  1. June 20, 2015 at 10:27 am rochester_veteran responds:

    The newer, nicer complexes do have high rent. When we made our escape from the 19th Ward to the ‘burbs, we found a townhouse in a Westside outer ring suburb in an older complex that was built in the early 70s and the rent wasn’t nearly as high as in places such as Henrietta or the Eastside ‘burbs. We’re still in the same place as the rent is reasonable for a 3 bedroom, partially finished basement, 1 1/2 baths and south of $1000 for rent. We’re probably going to downsize sometime in the future, but we’re not in a hurry to do so as we like our present place.

  2. There are two ways to look at this issue-the price of rents or the ability of renters to pay the market rate.

    Rents are what they are due to the costs landlords have to pay–like property taxes–some of the highest in the country.. Relative to the rest of the U.S., Rochester is still a low-priced real estate market.

    I suggest that we change the question to why are incomes so low? We probably have about 40-50,000 people living in our community who dropped out of school over the last 10-15 years and are most likely employed in low-end jobs. On the other side, we have high end jobs crying for qualified candidates.

    This is a math/relationship test: the higher the denominator for a fixed numerator, the lower the percentage.

    This issue is a consequence of our historically high high school drop out rate. Too high a numerator! Another %!

  3. June 20, 2015 at 11:38 am Jim Mayer responds:

    I’d want to see the distribution of tents before drawing any conclusions. There are new units entering the market that are serving a different, higher end, demographic than Rochester’s rental market is used to. These will drive up the averages (the mean more than the median), but do not mean that rent has become less affordable. The other issue, as another commentor mentioned, is “why are incomes so low”. People with low income pay unsustainable amounts for both housing and transportation because they don’t have enough money coming in to buy these services at a rate the market can provide. That leads either to government subsidies or substandard housing. It would be better if we could fix the underlying problems of low employment and low wages.

    • June 20, 2015 at 11:43 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      The study showing a lot of people pay a large percentage of their rent for housing showed Rochester ranks very badly on this metric.

  4. June 20, 2015 at 11:42 am Animule responds:

    Owning rental housing in the city of Rochester is an unattractive proposition. You wonder how much time and effort it takes to keep current with city regulations pertaining to lead abatement, for instance. There are also taxes and high expenses for utilities given the likely age of rental housing stock in the city.

    And then you have the city of Rochester underwriting the construction of rental housing to compete with privately owned rental housing with new units created with boatloads of public money. Look at El Camino Estates – 25 units of rental housing for a project that cost over $7 million – roughly $293k PER UNIT. How can a private owner of a rental house compete with a project like that where the city is throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars to compete against private citizens? http://www.cityofrochester.gov/property.aspx?id=8589944922

  5. Rachel: Again,…a statistical drama. “Journalism” with no suggestion (or suggestions) on how to address some of the housing issues. You have heard it from me before and I am going to mention it again,…..ALL THE ISSUES RELATED TO POVERTY AND THAT INCLUDES HOUSING, ARE DUE TO THE FOLLOWING ROOT CAUSE, A LACK OF EDUCATION. If you don’ get an education you have nothing to offer the work force and consequently a low paying job at best. That significantly narrows ones choices in life. That low paying job won’t pay the bills, keeps you down, wipes out opportunity for advancement, leaves you with little housing choice and keeps you under the watchful eye, and yes “thumb”, of the government. And before you know it, you owe your soul to them and you have little to no choices in your existence, which is an awful place to be in.

    You still won’t hear me out on an education enhancement that I have been promoting for years now. You and those that are charged with educating our upcoming generation will not listen to anyone. You know it all, have all the answers, but apparently keep those to yourself. We don’t need statistical journalism, we don’t need written finger pointing, we need solutions. Of course if you provide those much needed solutions you will eventually run out of issues to write about. The thought of that must make you feel very uncomfortable.

    • June 20, 2015 at 3:49 pm rochester_veteran responds:

      I agree with you, Josh, lack of an education is a detriment. Also, kids growing up in single parent families are statistically prone to live in poverty and on some sort of public assistance.

  6. Any indication of small players building in response to increased demand? There’s a whole lot of small infill opportunities in Rochester – 2-10 family stuff that people want right now. This could be a real source of healthy small business growth.

  7. June 21, 2015 at 7:58 pm Edward responds:

    I think underscoring all of this is shift in not only the job market but they number of jobs people hold. Even those who have specialized skills and can get good jobs aren’t super interested in getting burdened in a mortgage given that the average job lasts 4.4 years (and even less than that for younger employees). The days of the 20+ year job at Kodak are over. Compound that with the fact that most “first-time home buyer” aged people were in college or just out of college when the housing bubble collapsed conjures up a lot of fear in those who otherwise would be purchasing houses. Less demand for purchasing leads to an increased demand for renting given a stable population (which Rochester essentially has).

    I think increases in rent are also a side-effect of urbanization – Millennials who want to live in the city don’t buy houses for the aforementioned reason – also are unlikely to want to get locked in to the city long term if kids are in their future and on the other end of the age spectrum, the retirees/empty-nesters moving back into the city are moving back so they don’t have to deal with the upkeep of a home, so they want to rent. Especially given the new fancy complexes in the city. Increased demand leads to increased prices and you’ll see neighborhoods were the traditional, long-standing residents are priced out of like Park Slope in Brooklyn here in Rochester (see Upper Mt. Hope).

  8. How much home do you need? A room for each person seems sufficient. You don’t need 2,000 square feet of living space, like some of these new lofts and high-end condos have. If there is a “crisis” it sure seems to be a silent one. I haven’t read any news stories in recent months about this so-called “crisis.” Maybe an intrepid reporter at a local news station could do one for a change? If you don’t need a large place, there’s no reason any job available shouldn’t suffice. How much more of this should the taxpayer have to take? We don’t have governmental subsidies, we just pay for them for the very rich and the very poor. This is an outrage.

  9. In the city at least, maybe it’s due to a lack of new apartments. The NIMBYs seem to do a good job of killing anything outside of downtown.

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