Dotting the streets of Rochester, they are houses and buildings which have been weathered down, exposed to the elements and stripped of all their valuable woods and fixtures. These homes which were once part of thriving communities, are now scheduled for demolition.
“These are houses that are beyond repair,” says Julio Vazquez Sr., commissioner of community development for the City of Rochester, “on an annual basis, we'll do (demolish) 150 to 175 houses.”
While the demolition effort is aimed at making the city streets safe and more attractive, it comes at a pretty price for taxpayers. According to the City’s Department of Community Development, an average vacant house or building in the City of Rochester costs $15,000 to demolish. The price may be higher or lower based upon a building’s size and state of disrepair. If these houses should burn down for any reason, the demolition price increases.
“We try to demolish within three days and that usually costs about three thousand dollars more,” says Vazquez, “once it burns, there is no way to survey and find out if there is asbestos so as far as the law is concerned, we have to consider that everything is contaminated with asbestos.”
If the Rochester City Fire Department should determine a vacant structure needs to be torn down immediately after a fire, the price doubles. The cost could exceed $30,000.
In the first 18 months of Mayor Bob Duffy's administration, 400 vacant buildings were demolished. These were homes and buildings considered public eyesores which had been on the City’s backlog for years. The cost: well over $8 million dollars.
“One of the problems we have as a City is that we lost a lot of population,” says Vazquez who notes the City’s population has dropped by one-third since the 1950s. It’s a problem which translates in more empty houses, left in some cases for years unattended and finally bought by the City of Rochester through means of foreclosure.
“So we have an oversupply of housing and that is part of the problem,” says Vazquez.
If the homes can be saved in a cost-effective way, the City is trying to refurbish them and re-sell them through programs such as “Re-Invest in Rochester”. The program began only a few months ago and will be up for review next year.
“It's going very well so far,” says Vasquez.