Flower City Showcased For Blooming Affordable Housing Options

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- This building, rich with history, sat vacant for 37 years. 

"We'd get our teeth done here and they'd give us little swag bags," Denise Norrett, a tenant of Eastman Gardens said. "My father was born on Ontario Street; he had his teeth done in the 1930's."

Now, Denise Norrett is calling the former Eastman Dispensary home.

"I put myself on the list almost two years ago," Norrett said.

The building, now known as Eastman Gardens officially opened on Wednesday. Nearly $15 million in renovations made way for 52 apartments for seniors and physically handicapped persons. It's part of an effort between city, county and state leaders to grow options for affordable housing.

"We're talking about those who have incomes 80 percent under the median," said Carol Wheeler, city of Rochester manager of housing. "That typically is under $60,000 a year for a family of four."

Wheeler said it's a constant struggle to make sure those families have safe options. With the new Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, Wheeler said the pressure is rising.

"They're looking to reduce poverty by about 50 percent, that's going to take about 15 years," Wheeler said. "We are very, very hopeful we will have enough housing to accommodate all those families."

President and CEO of New York State Association for Affordable Housing Jolie Milstein said Rochester can do it. After all, she said success so far is what brought the association to the Flower City for its 13th annual upstate conference.

"The city has been very strategic about investing their affordable housing dollars neighborhood by neighborhood and it's attracting a lot of state and federal money," Milstein said.

She said 30 percent of Rochesterians are in poverty. Milstein said the way out is a good roof over their heads.

"I believe affordable housing really is at the cross-roads for helping communities rebuild," Milstein said.

It's certainly helped Norrett rebuild her life.

"It's been like a fairytale," Norrett said. "It's like someone sprinkled fairy dust, ya know?"

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