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Affordable housing and concentrated poverty

I recently retired after spending 25 years trying to develop affordable housing in suburban Monroe County. The nonprofit development corporation for which I worked had a mission to develop one unit in the suburbs of Monroe County for every unit developed in the City of Rochester. This was one small step aimed at breaking down the concentration of poverty in Monroe County.

In my 25 years we developed 144 units of affordable housing in Monroe County. That is about six per year. In the same period of time three times as many were developed in the City of Rochester. Why?

As the recent Rochester Area Community Foundation report pointed out, most suburban communities lack land that is appropriately zoned. Suburban towns also find it politically difficult to rezone a parcel of land for multi-family use when people think it might be for affordable, multi-family units. The limited land appropriately zoned is very expensive.

Regulations and policies of state and federal housing financing programs often favor developments in lower-income, city neighborhoods. The deconcentration of poverty is not a funding priority. Developing more affordable housing in suburban locations will take the cooperation of all levels of government.


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