HOW WE STARTED
When Adam Bello was Supervisor of the Town of Irondequoit, he identified over 250 vacant properties in his town alone. As the Town Supervisor of an older and established inner-ring suburb, he knew both from his own experience and the concerns shared by many constituents that this was one of the single most concerning issues facing homeowners in his community. Through informal discussions with other town supervisors, he quickly realized he was not alone in facing this issue. Irondequoit soon created a vacant property registry and tougher code enforcement regulations, but it was difficult for a single municipality to make progress on its own. One of the biggest challenges a local government faces in addressing vacant properties is the complexity of the issue. Each property has a unique story and reason that it sits vacant.
As part of his research on the subject, Adam Bello and his staff met with a number of organizations and individuals who work in the housing and foreclosure fields. It quickly became apparent that there are experts right here in Monroe County working on the issue every day: people who were willing to share information, knowledge and expertise. Adam met with attorneys from Empire Justice Center who had also been exploring a mechanism to coordinate the community around the issue and was looking for the right partner to help champion the cause. At that meeting Rebecca Caico, Senior Attorney at Empire Justice, agreed to co-chair a task force. She brought with her expertise in the field and knowledge of the local players who are instrumental in making the task force a success. Shortly after Adam was named Monroe County Clerk, community stakeholders met and agreed to participate in the task force to address vacant properties.
HOW WE HAVE PROGRESSED
The Monroe County Vacant and Abandoned Task Force began their work on April 14, 2016. Since then we have had many more meetings and events, including:
- Monthly planning meetings
- Quarterly meetings of the full Task Force
- Monthly Task Force sub committee meetings
- Various meetings with stakeholders, including town supervisors, Rochester Land
- Bank and community groups
- Facebook Live 1 year press conference
- Expanded outreach via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our brand new Website.
- Held our first Home Fair to showcase services and resources in Monroe County.
- Partnering with SONYMA for a Neighborhood Spruce Up event in June 2018
THE WAY FORWARD
Our initial report contains the findings and recommendations so far, but every member of this Task Force is well aware that the work is far from complete. The report was created to offer a detailed overview of the issue and an explanation of many factors that contribute to it. The report has also acted as the group’s action plan for the coming months and years. The Task Force fully intends to continue efforts to make changes in the areas with which we have direct control, particularly focusing on improving the sharing of information and the speed in which vacant property issues are resolved, and help advocate for the implementation of our recommendations as well as expand our outreach to the community and highlight the many services available. Here is our 2018 Report which was just released in May which revises our focus for the coming year.