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City, County Encourage Renters to Take Advantage of Community Support Services if Facing Possible Eviction

Staff Report

Anyone facing possible eviction or other pandemic-related challenges, there is help available.

Mayor Malik D. Evans recently announced that help is available for those who may be evicted from their home. Evans and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello are encouraging renters to utilize support services for city and county residents by calling 2-1-1 Lifeline or the Tenant Defense Project and connect with programs that may help.

“If you are at risk of eviction or face other housing challenges due to the pandemic, you are not alone. Help is available,” Evans said.

New York state’s eviction moratorium was lifted on Jan. 15 and city and county leaders are preparing for a possible influx of eviction cases to reach the courts as a result.

Evans said the ending of the eviction moratorium has the potential to impact thousands of people in the Rochester area especially in the middle of winter and post-pandemic. “There’s the latest survey from the census bureau that showed about 15,000 households in our region were still behind in rent in January,” Evans said. “And while it’s difficult to estimate how many of those will lead to eviction, we can expect a high number of residents to be impacted.”

The moratorium on utility shut offs has also been lifted, putting more residents at risk of housing instability. Housing advocates expect a high number of residents to be impacted.

The City of Rochester and Monroe County has distributed more than $45 million in federal stimulus funding to help with rent relief and legal assistance to prevent evictions during the pandemic. Evans said the disbursements have helped stabilize over 8,000 households during the pandemic.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said it is critically important to help city and county who have suffered economic losses during the pandemic are able to stay in their homes.

“If you are facing eviction, or challenges with childcare, food security, mental health issues, or if you are a landlord impacted by the pandemic, please call 2-1-1 to connect with existing programs that can help,” he said.

Evans said he wants the community to know they are not alone. “If you are facing challenges with childcare, food, security utilities, or mental health, there are also help for those things as well,” said Evans.

While most of those funds have been distributed, there are still support programs available to those who need help:

  • For residents facing potential eviction, it is critically important to understand the rights of tenants. Call the Tenant Defense Project at (585) 504-6195. Residents who have been given a court date for eviction should go to court and represent themselves. The Tenant Defense Project may be able to provide a lawyer free of charge.
  • Those facing other challenges – with childcare, food security, utilities, mental health – can call 2-1-1. Operators can help put residents in touch with programs that could provide relief. Operators are there 24-hours-a-day, and services are provided in multiple languages.

A collaboration between ESL Charitable Foundation, United Way, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and Causewave Community Partners is helping to get the word out and encourage residents to call 2-1-1 to learn about available resources.

The Housing Quality Task Force has recently been initiated by Mayor Evans to help identify and prioritize housing related reforms. It includes housing providers, a representative from the City-Wide Tenants Union, City departmental staff, the Rochester – Monroe Anti Poverty Initiative and many other cross-sector collaborators and stakeholders.

Rochester City Council President Miguel A. Meléndez, Jr. is a member of the 21-member task force and along with City Councilmember Kim Smith , has joined other members to help identify and prioritize housing related reforms and address the housing challenges that Rochesterians face.

Melendez said he called on the task force to review any concepts and potential policy recommendations to protect tenants, which include ‘Good Cause Eviction’ protections.

“As a city, we face many challenges and instability with respect to housing and I am committed to tackling structural, systemic, and policy driven challenges head on,” Melendez said.

“I look forward to collaborating with the community and Administration as we embark on this journey. I want to thank my fellow task force members for respecting our commitment to exploring tenant protections as part of this effort but we certainly hope to achieve balanced recommendations.”

The Housing Quality Task Force is co-chaired by Aqua Porter of Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative and Carol Wheeler, the City’s Manager of Housing. The remaining task force members include:

  • John Brach – Mayor’s Office
  • Shawn Burr – Rochester Housing Authority
  • Alex Castro – The Housing Council at Pathstone
  • Stacy Jernigan – Rochester Homeless Union
  • Linda Kingsley – City of Rochester Law Department
  • Kurt Martin – City of Rochester
  • Liz McGriff – City-Wide Tenant Union of Rochester
  • Miguel Melendez – Rochester City Council President
  • Elizabeth Murphy – City of Rochester Planning
  • Barbara Pierce – City of Rochester Communications
  • Zach Pike – Legal Aid Society of Rochester
  • Kim Smith – Rochester City Councilmember
  • Eric Van Dusen – ESL Federal Credit Union
  • Housing Providers: Matt Bain, Matt Drouin
  • City of Rochester Department of Neighborhood and Business Development: Lia Anselm, Henry Fitts, Erik Frisch, Daisy Rivera Algarin

Melendez and fellow task force members hope to ensure tenant protections would be addressed in final recommendations during the first meeting of the Housing Quality Task Force.

Visit www.211lifeline.org to seek assistance or for further information or www.cityofrochester.gov.