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City threatens to take control of ignored apartment buildings 

Peter Hungerford is starting to become a well-known name to people who follow housing issues in Rochester. Hungerford owns several buildings where tenants say that they have been living in bad, unaddressed conditions, like sewage backing up in their apartments, mold, and electrical problems.

Last month, tenants at 447 Thurston Road started a rent strike. And on Monday, renters at 967 Chili Avenue, some of whom are joining the rent strike, held a small rally to highlight their own building’s problems, including a ceiling falling apart in the building’s entrance way, reports of infestation, and broken windows. The 15-unit building currently has 15 outstanding code violations.

click to enlarge Tenants at 967 Chili Avenue held a rally Monday to protest the poor conditions of their building. - PHOTO BY JAKE CLAPP
  • PHOTO BY JAKE CLAPP
  • Tenants at 967 Chili Avenue held a rally Monday to protest the poor conditions of their building.

Those actions have gotten the City of Rochester’s attention. The city has threatened to take five of Hungerford’s buildings into receivership if past-due violations aren't addressed. Through receivership, the city or a third party would take control of the building, collect rent from tenants, and get repairs made in the building. Hungerford was given an April 1 deadline.

“What we’ve seen is that when tenants have gone public in other buildings, the city has responded,” said Ryan Acuff, an organizer with the City-Wide Tenant Union. “And through that, the landlord is taking certain things more seriously.”

click to enlarge A ceiling falling apart in the the 967 Chili Avenue apartment building entrance way. - PHOTO BY JAKE CLAPP
  • PHOTO BY JAKE CLAPP
  • A ceiling falling apart in the the 967 Chili Avenue apartment building entrance way.
Acuff said the city should go further and use the power of criminal prosecution to protect tenants across Rochester from slumlords and absentee landlords. (Hungerford lives in Staten Island.) The Rochester city code should be enforced, Acuff said, but the city “has been asleep at the wheel.”

One of the Chili Avenue tenants who is joining the rent strike is Katt Wilson, who said she has had electrical problems in her bathroom, and one of the windows in her apartment isn’t properly installed. She said she hasn’t heard back from Rochester Asset Management, Hungerford’s company that manages his properties. Part of the problem, tenants have said, is there aren't enough maintenance workers for multiple buildings.

“Some of us just want to live within our means,” Wilson said. “So we should be able to do that and do that in an apartment building that’s well maintenanced and where the tenants are cared for.”


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