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Homeowners wanted 

The plan is in its infancy, but City of Rochester officials may take a program designed to increase owner-occupied housing downtown and replicate it in the city's neighborhoods. Which neighborhoods, when, and exactly how the program would work are still open questions.

"There are no decisions, just ideas at this point," says Bret Garwood, the city's director of business and housing development. "We're still just talking about it."

The Core Housing Owner Incentive Exemption offers property-tax exemptions for the creation of market-rate owner-occupied housing in the downtown area. The exemption applies to increases in property value. If you make improvements that increase the value of your home, the subsequent increase in your tax bill is phased in over a 10-year period.

The CHOICE program also applies to units converted from other uses to owner occupancy.

Garwood says CHOICE encourages developers to build more owner-occupied units, and makes the housing more affordable. Homeowners are typically more invested in their properties and their communities than renters, officials say, and can help stabilize troubled neighborhoods.

A logical place to replicate the CHOICE program may be in one or more of the city's four Focused Investment neighborhoods, Garwood says: Beechwood, Dewey-Driving Park, Jefferson, or Marketview Heights. The city has singled out these areas for intense investment. All four areas have a high percentage of rentals, and the FIS plans for each include increasing owner occupancy.

"I think it makes sense to do it where there are opportunities to create owner-occupancy units where they don't exist now," Garwood says.

The CHOICE program helped the Capron Street Lofts conversion, he says, as well as the construction of North Plymouth Terrace at North Plymouth Avenue and West Main Street.

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