Rochester’s City Council insisted the College Town project include affordable housing in exchange for a $20 million taxpayer-backed loan. President Lovely Warren said developers wanting public money should make sure their projects are open to all.
Mt. Hope Neighborhood Association leaders were livid. Richard Rowe, owner of Rowe’s Photo, wrote to City Council:
Our community does not lack “affordable housing,” however “affordable” is defined. Our community already cares for citizens in need and we are also blessed with good housing inventory at low prices, compared to other cities.
Whenever we encumber an investment with the words “affordable,” “low income,” “subsidized” and/or “controlled,” somebody is leaving money on the table and someone else is paying for the privilege.
Only 10 of the 150 apartments at College Town will be for low to moderate income residents. The Urban Land Institute says moderate income is usually defined as 80 to 120 percent of an area’s median income and low income is defined as 50 to 80 percent of the area’s median income.
Will these 10 units threaten the project’s viability and be a scourge on the neighborhood?
Mixed-income housing developments are now the norm. The days of herding low-income residents into “projects” are over. Cities are tearing down “projects,” which were often places filled with crime and hopelessness. Concentrating poverty has consequences, especially for schools and children.
The old housing project on Mt. Hope Avenue was torn down and replaced by Erie Harbor, where rents are quite high. Only 27 of the 131 apartments are set aside as affordable units, but the manager said they are not for “low income” families. The Hamilton high rise next door serves the poorest residents. The Erie Harbor apartments are renting fast, proving that having an affordable component doesn’t stop high-income residents from moving in.
Living in a city means living with people from all walks of life.
The Urban Land Institute wrote a paper called Mixed-Income Housing: Myth and Fact. Here is an excerpt:
…mixing incomes has become a popular way to supply affordable housing options, increase absorption in large planned developments, revitalize urban neighborhoods, and decrease the concentration of poverty in publicly assisted housing. When located close to job centers and services, mixed-income housing provides more than just another housing product—it also activates smart growth principles by reducing travel times and congestion.
A friend said to me, “If I’m paying $1,000 a month, why should the guy in the next apartment over be paying only $600?”
The answer is the guy makes a lot less money and probably doesn’t have as nice an apartment. The guy likely has a job and his tax dollars also helped finance the project. My friend’s attitude also assumes there is something special about these apartments. The only thing special about them is the location, which may have been inaccessible to poorer residents.
Staggered rents already exist throughout the city with the Section 8 program, which typically limits rent to 30 percent of a resident’s income. These lower-income residents just aren’t near you – until now.