Blight in Buffalo

November 12th, 2008

Buffalo, NY has a lot bigger challenges than finding a way to keep the Bills (or for that matter finding a way for the Bills to win a game against a divisional rival). An estimated 30% of Buffalonians live in poverty, and a huge chunk of the housing stock is vacant while there is also a dearth of affordable housing for the poorest city residents. There is a fantastic organization run by a recent HLS alum, Aaron Bartley, called PUSH Buffalo  http://pushbuffalo.org/default.htm) which, among other things, is working to convert abandoned and blighted real estate into affordable housing. PUSH seems to have an interesting model, which includes some advocacy and lobbying and other direct services like the provision of co-op housing arrangements to encourage housing ownership among the poor, and the FLoG Blog hopes to bring Aaron in for a guest post sometime soon. 

There is also a proposal on the table for the city of Buffalo to become a “living laboratory” to solve the vacant housing crises. http://www.buffalonews.com/home/story/448343.html. The proposal includes many different initiatives all to be centrally coordinated at the University of Buffalo, these initiatives include the creation of regional development authorities and incentives for businesses that build green buildings and create green jobs. (You can read more about the living laboratory project here: http://www.lisc.org/buffalo/assets/asset_upload_file503_10740.pdf). The proposal seems to want to draw in the talent and the money (from federal and state government) that would be needed to tackle the problem. The remaining question is whether the city (or more accurately, the region) will have the legal authority and the political will to implement these proposals. It is unclear whether the state economic development statutes will allow the local Industrial Development Agencies to merge into a regional authority, and even if this merge can happen, it is unclear whether the political willpower will exist to seek regional cooperation. Aaron Bartley may have put it best:  “The question remains whether our leaders in the public and private sector, who have failed so miserably to address the problem thus far, will recognize the need for regional cooperation and a less parochial outlook on development matters”

Back with more on Buffalo in the coming weeks. . . 

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