I am a current member of Our Land Roc, a coalition of community groups and local residents who seek “to cultivate a more equitable, sustainable, and collaborative approach to development in the City of Rochester.” I have helped develop Our Land Roc’s proposals and as a member of City Council write and/or vote for the following legislation:
*Before a project is approved there must be a timely and comprehensive notice to affected neighborhoods. Currently, the process is piecemeal and many are left out of the loop. People whose lives are affected by development should have the ability to participate in the decision-making process.
* The people living in an area to be affected by development should have a say in if/how that development takes place. Therefore we should mandate that all development projects include a Community Benefit Agreement. This is a contract between a developer, city officials, and impacted citizens to address common interests and concerns. I would argue that a CBA should be done for any project that makes someone money.
*Our Land Roc calls for Inclusionary Zoning. I will be specific. Projects usually include some type of affordable housing. The problem with this is what is considered to be affordable. Currently, we use “area median income,” (AMI) but we use the County’s AMI which is $68k. Therefore, “affordable” for many projects is in reality not, as the City’s AMI is only around $31k. Therefore we have to use the City’s AMI when putting provisions in projects.
*Also, changes need to be made to the City Charter that would change zoning in two ways. First, new development must have at predetermined number affordable units for the lowest income level families. It is the goal of Our Land Roc that every neighborhood be comprised of 50% affordable units – be it either apartments or owner-occupied houses. Second, all development (housing or otherwise) must meet a strict environmental standard. This includes energy efficiency, pollution, and energy production (via solar, wind, etc.). With the alarming news that keeps coming out about climate change, I am not opposed to regulations that make all new projects, no matter how big or small, carbon neutral.
*We must end tax breaks for development. While we have ways in which we will save money in our budget, the results of decades of giving away hundreds of millions of dollars of our tax dollars have shown little overall results other than this money leaving our community. If a project needs tax breaks to be financially viable, then it is not a project that should take place as it is not sustainable. Instead, we will use the tax money that comes in to provide infrastructure that businesses need such as improved roads, better schools, cheaper and renewable energy, and more.
*Our Land Roc is a huge supporter of Community Land Trusts. Not many know this, but we actually have a CLT in Rochester! The City of Rochester should do more to support City Root CLT’s mission. One way is to literally give away as many of the abandoned houses that curse our city as City Root can handle. Then use City resources to help City Root fix them so that families can occupy them once again.
*Our Land Roc also calls for Participatory Budgeting. I’ve already posted a platform plank on this, which you can see here.
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Much of Our Land Roc's mission and this platform plank deals with housing. You can see my platform plank on housing here.