Mary Lupien and Rachel Barnhart Concerned About CHOICE Expansion

Democratic nominees for City Council and Monroe County Legislature have major concerns about the proposed expansion of the city’s CHOICE program outside of downtown Rochester.

(Watch: News 8‘s coverage.)

(Read Democrat and Chronicle‘s coverage.)

(Listen to Rachel on WXXI podcast.)

This program offers 9-year property tax breaks on owner-occupied new construction. The first year, property owners pay 10 percent the second year, 20 percent, and so on until the property owners pay 100 percent of their taxes.

The CHOICE program has been a giveaway to the wealthy and did not accomplish its mission of greatly adding owner-occupied units downtown. In the many years of its existence, few units were constructed and they were all in the high-end market. The data shows affluent people took advantage of this program.

There’s nothing to suggest the same thing wouldn’t happen if we expand the program. In fact, a city official told the COMIDA board at Tuesday’s meeting, the city anticipated focusing the program on the high and middle housing markets – which do not need any help. The official gave East Avenue as an example of the market that would attract new construction under this program.

“We have areas of Rochester with many vacant lots that desperately need investment. If it is not targeted, the CHOICE program will further gentrification and increase inequality,” said Mary Lupien.

“This is grossly unfair and does not help the city reduce poverty, make home ownership more accessible and improve struggling neighborhoods,” said Rachel Barnhart.

We urge City Council and COMIDA to target this program and use caution before proceeding.