Monroe County, NY

what does it take to help landlords with small portfolios improve the quality of naturally occurring affordable housing?


czb was asked by a collection of non-profit funders to analyze the Rochester and Monroe County rental market with a specific emphasis on understanding and addressing the business models of small-time rental property owners. Because the need for housing assistance amongst low-income renters far exceeds available public resources, the vast majority of low-income renters procure their housing on the private market, often from landlords who own a small number of units—from only a handful to a few dozen.

The analysis resulted in a taxonomy of private sector landlords and revealed the key finding that the Monroe County rental marketplace is an efficient sorting mechanism, matching similar grades of landlords, tenants, properties, and locations with each other. The results of the matching system have negative repercussions for low-income tenants and the broader the community. The report recommended interventions to disrupt the system and match struggling tenants to better landlords.

A tale of two geographies within the county

Decades of intense suburbanization and concentration of low incomes in the City of Rochester created two clearly different rental markets.

Interviews with rental owners revealed insights into the mechanics of the market.

Understanding the connections and correlations between location, property conditions, tenants, and owners.

Achieving better outcomes in the rental marketplace

The report's recommendations are aimed at disrupting the natural match between economically struggling renters and landlords who are bad actors in the marketplace. Specifically, action items focus on partnership with responsible rental property owners, supports for tenants, and helping bad actors find their way out of the marketplace.