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Activists call for New York state to fund affordable housing at Hotel Cadillac

Max Schulte

About 20 activists gathered outside the Hotel Cadillac on Wednesday calling for the hotel to be converted to permanent housing for people who are without stable housing in Rochester.

“You got people in wheelchairs living on the street. That’s not fair! That’s not right!” said John Jones, 71, who is staying at the House of Mercy homeless shelter. “It hurts when you can’t do nothing about it. It hurts, you understand? We’re asking the state to give us the opportunity to get somewhere to get people to live. It’s a lot of rooms up here, y’all.”

Jumaane Williams, the New York City public advocate who is considering a run for governor next year, said a bill passed two months ago could provide a path to build more affordable housing if it had more funding behind it. 

That law is the Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act, or HONDA. Funding through this program would be used to convert distressed commercial buildings, like the hotel, into affordable housing units. 

“If you’re sick, it’s hard for you to get well if you don’t have permanent housing,” Williams said. “If you’re in school trying to learn, it’s hard to do your homework if you don’t have permanent housing. Shelters are not the answer to homelessness, housing is. Permanent housing is the answer to homelessness.”

Activists like Kim Smith with VOCAL-NY say the $100 million set aside for the HONDA effort would barely make a dent, and that more should be allocated in the state’s next budget cycle so that hotels like the Cadillac could be renovated into affordable housing.

The dilapidated hotel closed in 2018, a move that displaced residents there who had been living in squalor.

Credit Max Schulte / WXXI News
Mildred Bartlett, left, and Crystal Lenear protest with other local activists for support for HONDA and affordable housing across the state Wednesday, Oct. 13, in front of the the Cadillac Hotel in downtown Rochester.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
Max Schulte is responsible for creating video and photo elements for WXXI News and its digital spaces. He also assists with news and public affairs coverage, digital-first video content, and studio productions.