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Tenants call for stronger housing rights

Beth Adams/WXXI News

Chanting "housing is a human right," several dozen people staged a demonstration on Monroe Avenue this morning.

Rochester tenants were joined by members of housing justice groups from around the state, calling for statewide protections against poor living conditions, rent hikes, and displacement.

Tenants of a building at Monroe and Meigs say the new owner gave them thirty days to leave their apartments so the building can be redeveloped.

"He's offering us a property right down the block from here in one of his portfolios,” said Jody Francis, who says he has lived in the building for almost three years. “He showed it to me; it's a very nice property at 100 dollars more (a month) than I'm (currently) paying." Francis said not all of his neighbors will be able to afford the higher rent.

Ryan Acuff of the Rochester Tenants Union says redevelopment comes at a cost for some.

"What we want is to add no-fault evictions throughout the state to have protection against someone just buying out, clearing out a building and to stabilize the rent. We believe we can have a vibrant Rochester and we can have development but we need to have development that doesn't displace people."

The Tenants Union has been pushing for a Rochester Housing Court to handle tenant complaints and tenant/landlord disputes. That would require a change in state law and Assemblyman Harry Bronson has drafted legislation to establish such a court. The measure was submitted in February and was referred to the Assembly judiciary committee.

Advocates for the homeless say gentrification is adding to Rochester’s homeless population.  "And, you know we have the shelter on Hudson Avenue and it's overflowing already," said Sister Grace Miller of the House of Mercy. "Come winter, what's going to happen?" The Hudson Avenue shelter has 82 beds. "We have a housing crisis here in the city," Miller said. "Not for the wealthy, but for the poor."

The New York State Assembly budget includes $15 million to establish a pilot program, which includes funding to help provide 50 additional shelter allowances for homeless individuals and families in Monroe County.