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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).

Bridge Square


I toured Bridge Square yesterday, the latest addition to the downtown housing market. The former Josh Lofton High School also has offices, which will be occupied by Passero Associates.

The 24 apartments are one and two bedroom units. The rents will be $1,000-1,300 a month, placing them out of range for many Rochester area residents. The median income in Monroe County is about $50,204. The median rent is $780.

According to the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation, downtown dwellers paid an average of $1.17 a square foot in 2011. Developers say they can’t make the numbers work without charging at least $1 a square foot.

Clearly, downtown housing units, particularly renovated loft-style apartments, command a premium. Example include the Temple Building, 44 Exchange and H.H. Warner Lofts.  The RDDC survey indicated a 4 percent vacancy rate in 2011 for downtown market rate units, considered a healthy market.

Why is downtown so hot?

Real estate agent Mark Siwiec, who owns a number of properties in the Park Ave. area, has an interesting theory. “It doesn’t have as much to do with the fact they’re downtown.  When something comes on the market in great condition, you’re able to command top dollar in Rochester. It has little to do with the location and more to do with the quality and the apartment. People are starved for a good product. …I’m always being asked to show a loft style apartment…they don’t often exist.”

Siwiec says the quality of the new downtown units combined with their unique, cosmopolitan feel makes them very attractive. He added the local rental housing market as a whole is strong.

It won’t be easy to put more of these units in the pipeline. Even though downtown has a lot of space that could be converted into housing, it’s challenging to make the numbers work. We’re talking about old buildings constructed as factories or offices, not houses. That’s where grant programs and historic tax credits can make a difference.

Unless a slew of these units come online and the cost of constructing them comes down, the rent will remain high.

Links of the Day:

– New York State doesn’t appear inclined to violate the Seneca gambling compact by opening casinos in Buffalo and Rochester.

– New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is more than happy to let casinos stay Upstate.

– Onondaga County’s district attorney accused police of continuing to question suspects after they request a lawyer.

– Jim Boeheim is accused of being too lax on players and too harsh on the press.

When is it okay to let people know you smoke weed?

– There’s a lot going on in this turn-of-the-century picture of West Main Street.