Ana H Martinez works to finish dry walling a section of the stairway  at 228 Melville Street in Rochester on Nov. 26.as part of the City Roots Community Land Trust of Rochester.(EMC photo by John Haeger) Ana H Martinez works to finish dry walling a section of the stairway at 228 Melville Street in Rochester on Nov. 26.as part of the City Roots Community Land Trust of Rochester.(EMC photo by John Haeger)

Rochester organizations use grant funds to improve affordable housing

Two Rochester-based organizations focused on affordable-housing initiatives received grants from the office of state Attorney General Letitia James for the betterment of housing developments in the City of Rochester.

The first grant in the amount of $850,000 was awarded to City Roots Community Land Trust of Rochester Oct. 10. The second grant totaling $300,000 was awarded to the Housing Council at PathStone, a member of the New York’s Landlord Ambassador program, Nov. 6.

The grant to City Roots CLT is a continuation of the 2017 Community Land Trust Initiative, a program created by the attorney general’s office and Enterprise Community Partners to support the formation of six community land trusts in the state.

City Roots CLT focuses on renovating distressed properties, provides training and technical assistance to homeowners, and creates permanent, affordable housing for the benefit of low-income families. Joe Di Fiore, executive director of City Roots CLT, said the grant will be used to purchase and renovate 10 properties over the span of two years. The project will be completed in conjunction with Rochester Land Bank Corp., he said.

The properties will be acquired through Rochester Lending, explained Melissa Marquez, City Roots CLT’s vice president.

According to Marquez, the properties will be single-family homes. In order to qualify, applicants need to apply through City Root CLT’s website (www.cityrootsclt.org) or via their Facebook page; be pre-approved for a mortgage or on track to becoming qualified within the next nine months; and be involved in the Community Land Trust.

“The primary indicator (for qualification) is to be low income, but we are also ideally looking for people who are community oriented, in some regard they want to be part of the Community Land Trust and the aspect of community we’re trying to promote,” said Di Fiore, “and they have to really be ready for homeownership.”

Applicants who applied in November were to be chosen in December from a lottery pool. Selected applicants would then be notified by email, phone and letter to their home addresses, Di Fiore said.

While City Roots CLT’s grant money will be used to support affordable homeownership, PathStone will use its grant to seek out landlords who need help restoring their properties and transforming them into affordable homes.

PathStone’s housing council helps coordinate municipalities and property owners to help landlords access financing and technical support to repair occupied, distressed, multifamily homes while preserving the homes as part of the city’s affordable-housing market.

The program, also administered in conjunction with Enterprise Community Partners, works with the lender Community Preservation Corp and New York state’s affordable-housing agency Homes and Community Renewal, said Trisha Isaman, senior director of housing programs at PathStone.

Isaman said the grant money will be distributed over the course of two years, and PathStone has tentatively planned an informational open house for landlords at the end of January.

“We’re really hoping that we’ll enhance the landlord business’s practices and policies out there, making sure that they are doing things properly, legally, and that they are following all the state and local laws,” said Isaman. “On the other side, we’re also hoping that we can find some landlords that are interested in improving their properties so that it creates more affordable housing and better-quality housing in the City of Rochester, which is our main goal.”

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