Rising property values can be a sign of a healthy neighborhood. Unfortunately, they can also mean a higher tax bill.
Preliminary data from Rochester's ongoing citywide reassessment shows that property values are rising in some neighborhoods, including Highland, Swillburg, Browncroft, Upper Mount Hope, Neighborhood of the Arts, and Beechwood.
"You can almost tell: Where [are] the restaurants? Where are the people flocking? Where do you see them walking and the homes in good repair?" says city assessor Thomas Huonker.
Swillburg, a 20-block community in southeast Rochester known for its narrow streets and compact lots, may see one of the highest overall increases in residential property values, he says, at about 16 percent from the last citywide assessment four years ago.
"I think Swillburg is affordable and popular and close to a whole lot of stuff," Huonker says. "And it's been a nice, active neighborhood group."
Josh Massicot, a Swillburg homeowner who spearheaded the revitalization of the neighborhood association, says that Swillburg is a victim of its own success.
It has taken decades to build the neighborhood back up, he says, following an unsuccessful proposal to run the Genesee Expressway through Swillburg 40 years ago. People fled, property values plummeted, and the neighborhood declined, he says.
The residents who stuck with Swillburg during and after the expressway fight could be harmed if there are dramatic increases in property values, Massicot says.
"Our high rate of home ownership, economic and racial diversity, and stability as a community are things we want to maintain, nurture, and encourage — not profit at the expense of elbowing out those who can no longer afford or who feel no longer welcome as a result of gentrification," he says.
City residents should receive letters with their new values sometime after Thanksgiving, Huonker says. The new values will be used for the July 1, 2016, school tax bill, he says, and the January 1, 2017, county tax bill.
Neighborhoods with property values that appear to be decreasing include 14621, Lyell-Otis, Maplewood, Edgerton, the Genesee-Jefferson area, and the 19th Ward. But even in those neighborhoods, Huonker says, there are pockets of stability and growth.
Overall, he says, he expects the city's residential and commercial property values to remain stable or to increase slightly.
"I feel good about Rochester," Huonker says. "Who would think that we could still tread water with all that happened at Kodak? But we're still proving ourselves pretty good. But it's not the Rochester of 1950, with over 300,000 citizens and every neighborhood was probably pumping and thriving just beautifully."