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Dick Kern on Buffalo’s Abandoned Homes

Former Buffalo housing activist (and columnist for AV, Buffalo Beat, and Alt) Dick Kern sent around this note earlier in the week, in response the three-part series in the Buffalo News about the city’s plague of abandoned properties. (Here’s part one. Follow the links to parts two and three.)

Here’s what Kern has to say:

The Buffalo News‘ provocative, three-part series on abandoned homes once again does not mention other parts of a dramatically failed housing policy, which is speeding neighborhood decline.

Why is there so little debate about the wisdom of taxpayers paying for a frenzy of new housing construction in a shrinking city drowning in abandoned housing, for which the mayor is planning the massively costly demolition of 10,000 buildings?

Why is HUD so silent, as Buffalo’s poverty fuels a steady stream of lucrative “poverty housing” funding that too often makes things worse, not better? Isn’t Steve Banko ashamed to preside over the second poorest and third most vacant US city as he has watched all those $100s of milions pour through Buffalo? What does he propose his Department of Housing and Urban Development should do?

And why is City Hall’s flagship poverty agency, BMHA, engaged in a costly building frenzy as ever more of Buffalo’s poor live in dangerous, half-empty neighborhoods? BMHA spends over half of City Hall’s poverty housing funds on less than 10 percent of the city’s poor. That is blatantly unjust. What is BMHA executive director Dawn Sanders’ vision for a virtually obsolete agency more fairly reducing poverty and blight among Buffalo’s ever-growing ranks of the poor?

And why are Buffalo’s too-numerous, too-small “neighborhood housing agencies” getting a free pass while being scandalously unproductive? For example, West Side Neighborhood Housing Services has lost more clients in foreclosure over the past several years than it has rehabbed houses, generally slowly rehabbing at the rate of merely two per year. They currently are not rehabbing any houses and have not released any plan.

A dramatic example of the problem is Massachusetts Avenue, where WSNHS has focused more resources than any other street except their Connecticut Avenue “backyard.” Their $50K rehabbed 353 Massachusetts Avenue is currently in both mortgage and tax foreclosure, and WSNHS has been unable to sell their 807 Prospect (at the corner of Massachusetts) for which they paid $7K in July 2002.

After the jump you’ll find a list of 17 city-owned properties on Massachusetts Avenue, and 20 more scheduled for tax auction in October. What does WSNHS plan? Do they have a plan?

37 distressed properties on Massachusetts Ave (17 city-owned, 20 scheduled for tax auction). Addresses followed by an asterisk are city-owned properties; those without an asterisk are scheduled for tax auction.

36 Massachusetts
86 Massachusetts

114 Massachusetts

151 Massachusetts *
154 Massachusetts
160 Massachusetts
162 Massachusetts

217 Massachusetts *
219 Massachusetts *
223 Massachusetts *
224 Massachusetts

229 Massachusetts *
247 Massachusetts
261 Massachusetts

264 Massachusetts *
274 Massachusetts

319 Massachusetts *
330 Massachusetts *
335 Massachusetts *
336 Massachusetts *
339 Massachusetts *
341 Massachusetts *
345 Massachusetts *
347 Massachusetts
353 Massachusetts
363 Massachusetts *
383 Massachusetts *
394 Massachusetts

397 Massachusetts *
398 Massachusetts *
416 Massachusetts
446 Massachusetts
457 Massachusetts

458 Massachusetts *

518 Massachusetts
521 Massachusetts
526 Massachusetts