Rochester’s Destination Medical Zone (DMZ) has been hailed as a groundbreaking public-private partnership to redevelop downtown Rochester and solidify the Mayo Clinic’s position as a world leader in healthcare. Extensive development is now picking up its pace, transforming the downtown. But as is often the case, redevelopment is coming hand in hand with the displacement of households of color and people with disabilities.
In summer 2017, tenants in a 27 unit low-rent apartment building in the DMZ received notice they would have to move. These residents were all on limited incomes and were mostly disabled and households of color. They faced a tight rental market with few options and none remotely as affordable as where they had been living.
The Rochester Economic Development Authority was working closely with the private developer to empty the building and demolish it to make way for a new high-end apartment building. The displaced families received no relocation assistance, nor any of the relocation payments customarily required when there is extensive public involvement in demolition and displacement.
After multiple appeals to the city for help were fruitless, two former residents filed suit in 2019 in federal court. Represented by HJC and private co-counsel, the suit is a class action on behalf of all the displaced residents of the building. The lawsuit alleges that the city violated the Fair Housing Act because its actions caused a disparate impact, and there were other, non-discriminatory ways to accomplish the city’s redevelopment goals. The plaintiffs also claim that the city’s extensive involvement in the redevelopment triggered the state Uniform Relocation Act, which mandates comprehensive assistance and rent payments to displaced residents. Discovery is now underway.