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We need a Ying & Yang plan – right now we’re all Ying

Filed under: Media

This morning’s Buffalo News has an article about a “Vacancy Free zone”, a state grant for 20-block area west of Richmond to assist with rehabilitation of vacant homes. The area at one point included 115 vacant homes. That’s great and it will help the organization PUSH Buffalo stay on track to continue its rescue of abandoned properties. BUT there should also be grants for an “OCCUPANCY FREE ZONE”.

It’s a simple plan. If there are more empty houses than full houses on a stretch of city blocks then purchase the occupied homes and raze the entire area to land banking status. It would ease pressure on fire, sanitation, police and all kinds of other costly city services going to barely occupied streets. The city of Buffalo infrastructure was created to sustain at least a million people. We don’t even have 300,000 people living in the city limits. The city needs to contract to a size it can reasonably support. This would also help to create the urban density that makes cities what they are when those people bought out in the Occupancy Free zone relocate to a new neighborhood. AND the vacant homes in semi-occupied neighborhoods would have more potential tenants to turn that neighborhood into a Vacancy Free zone.

  • Kate

    I’m glad Artvoice published this, even if it’s web-only. This is an idea whose time has come. As you pointed out, it would help blocks that are struggling as well as saving money. It’s heartbreaking to drive through some of the bombed-out neighborhoods — where it’s clearly over — and see one or two well-maintained houses amidst the vacant lots, crackhouses and abandoned properties. You know those people probably don’t want to be there anymore, but who would buy a home in a neighborhood like that?
    At the same time, the people stuck in abandoned neighborhoods could help bolster neighborhoods on the verge, like many of those in the Masten Park area that seem to run close to 50-50 or better in terms of occupancy. Rochester did a project like this. Buffalo should, too.

  • Richard Kern

    This modest grant to PUSH raises lots of questions . . . how to eliminate vacancies in one neighborhood in a shrinking city (having about 22,000 vacancies?) without increasing vacancies elsewhere, especially as heavily-subsidized NEW housing is being built everywhere in the city . . & in the 2nd ring suburbs??

    The $550K grant for 115 vacant structures is about $4350 per structure, which does not go very far!!!

    That dilemma is brought more clearly into focus by the simultaneous new glitzy press release of the incredible $16.2 million project to create 60 new “affordable” housing units in a decades-long closed eastside orphanage (in another neighborhood drowning in vacancies). . at an average cost of $270,000 per “affordable” unit.

    New life for former orphanage

    Here’s the math . . . about $4350 per vacant house to reduce vacancies . . .while spending $270,000 each to create more.

    And this is merely the latest of a steady stream of new subsidized “affordable” units being built by developers citywide, costing $200K or more each in places where folks never lived when the city was over 2X larger.

    Sustainable? . . . or self-defeating developer-driven ‘Housing of Babble’?

    There needs to be much more focus on stopping the frenzy of costly subsidized “affordable” newbuilds @ $200K-plus each, as well as stopping relentless sprawl, & urgent need for landbanking . . if ‘vacancy-free’ is to ever be achievable!!!!