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Greece Joins Brockport in the Fight Against Slumlords

Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich
Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich

On Thursday, Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich, a Republican, announced a crackdown on landlords who fail to obey the Town Code.

Will wonders never cease?

What a shock that must have been to the college landlords who dominate the Sweden Republican Party, and who are actively campaigning against Brockport Mayor Margay Blackman’s announced intention to bring stricter code enforcement to the Village.

During his first public address since taking office in January, Reilich also promised to create a new municipal court that will only handle code violations.

Brockport’s slumlords must have cringed when they heard that idea? They believe that it is heresy for any Republican to support strict code enforcement.

Reilich made his comments to members of the Greece Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon at the Ridgemont Country Club.

Reilich said that the crackdown was prompted by complaints from town residents in the Dewey Avenue/Stone Road area that poorly-maintained rental properties are destabilizing the neighborhood and lowering property values.

Those complaints and those allegations should sound familiar to Brockport residents, who have been saying the same thing for years. But their complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

Don’t just do something, stand there.
Gossip columnist Leonard Lyons
Amarillo Daily News
August 31, 1945

At the Brockport Village Board meeting last week, a group of college landlords even addressed the Board to say that they were barely making any profit on their rental properties and that stricter code enforcement would be ruinous.

If you believe that, you’ll probably believe in fairy tales. Because that’s what their claim is – pure fantasy.

Pam Ketchum is a landlord and real estate agent in the village, and she knows the rental market in Brockport as well as anyone.

In her recent analysis of the rental situation in Brockport, Pam Ketchum showed beyond a doubt that college landlords make thousands of dollars of profit each year by renting to college students.

Another honest landlord in the Village, Kevin McCarthy, owns three rental properties in Brockport. After the slumlords whined to the Village Board, McCarthy had this to say.

“Our properties all make money despite having mortgages and the yearly improvements. The properties that I owned in the city along with my property I currently own in Bergen are much less profitable than Brockport. In Brockport you are able to charge more for less do to the high cost of living on campus. It is cheaper to rent from me than live on campus.”

But the slumlords cry poverty just the same.

Look at the cars they’re driving. Look at the houses they live in. Then ask yourself if the slumlords are telling the truth about their profit margins, or if their trying to maximize their profits by deliberately ignoring the Village Code.

In Greece, Reilich’s newly announced rental property initiative is supposed to include rental property inspections by the town every three years, in order to ensure that the rental properties are up to code standards before they are certified as habitable.

In Brockport, Pam Ketchum would like to see annual rental property inspections, while Kevin McCarthy suggests “biannual inspections and enforcement of the codes.”

Under the provisions of Section 36-6 E and Section 36-10.1 of the Village Code, inspections of rental properties in the Village are supposed to take place every three years.

But for as long as anyone can remember rental property inspections in the Village have been a hit or miss proposition.

Porches get converted into bedrooms, but no one in Brockport can remember the last time a landlord was hauled into court for illegally converting a front porch into room to for yet another college student tenant.

Also, under the provisions of Section 58-2 of the Village Code, a house classified as a single-family dwelling can only legally be occupied by three unrelated persons.

“B. It shall be presumptive evidence that four or more persons living in a single dwelling unit who are not related by blood, marriage or legal adoption do not constitute the functional equivalent of a traditional family.”

But even a quick look at the driveways of the single-family homes converted to college rentals in the village shows clearly that there are more cars in the driveway than three people could possibly drive.

The extra cars can’t fit in the driveway of the house, so the college students park on the lawn. Eventually the grass dies and the lawn becomes a de facto part of an expanded driveway.

That is another violation of the Code that the Village has ignored forever.

The rental properties deteriorate, and the property values of the houses nearby decline.

It happens in college rental houses all over the Village. But nobody does anything about it, so the slumlords thumb their noses at the Village Code.

As Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich said on Thursday “…the homeowner who's been there for 40 years says 'I'm sick of this,' moves away and their home becomes rental and on and on down the street."

It’s a vicious cycle that has Brockport by the throat. Mayor Margay Blackman has said she will change that.

She has the opportunity to take a step in the right direction at the Village’s annual organizational meeting coming up July 21st.

At that meeting, the Board of Trustees must approve or amend the current Village of Brockport Fee Schedule, which currently includes the ridiculously low fee of $10 for each, “Life-safety inspection deficiency” in a residential rental property in Brockport.

The fee for a “Life-safety inspection deficiency” for New Residential Construction, New Residential Come Construction, and New Commercial Construction is ten times that high – “$100 for each item”.

The lowest fee in the entire Village of Brockport Fee Schedule is for an inspection deficiency that threatens the life safety of the students who rent space in converted single family homes in Brockport.

No wonder the slumlords ignore the provisions of the Village Code. Even if their actions threaten the lives of their college student tenants, they’ll only get a $10 slap on the wrist.

Let’s hope Margay Blackman, and the members of the Village Board, can bring about some needed change, before families abandon their single family homes in the Village forever, and they all the single family homes in the Village turn into college rentals.

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