Vacant City Owned Lots We Can’t Buy and Rental Unit “Boxes” We Don’t Own

by Betty Jean GrantWhat This Community  Needs Is Private-Owned Affordable Housing!

Over the past decade, we have built many rental units in the city but very few, new builds, private-owned affordable housing. 

There is no mortgage, deed or personal investment in those rental units. No investment means no stake or equity in the long term development of one’s community! When the rent becomes too high or the tenant becomes ill or unemployed, guess who will be evicted and homeless?

I long for those bygone days when elected officials and the community leaders promoted private, home ownership, giving middle class residents a chance to buy or build a home in Buffalo. Look at the houses on Pratt, Hickory, Davis and Walnut St. Most of them are brick, well built and owned by African Americans. This was Buffalo’s heyday for minorities on the Eastside and I shudder to compare that progress in private homeownership to the big box, rental units they are now warehousing people in,all across the east side. Instead of selling vacant lots to eastside residents to build one or two family homes, the city administration is giving or selling the lots to developers to build 80, 90 or larger rental structures on streets that used to be filled with single or double houses of proud homeowners and their tenants. 

And speaking of vacant lots, why is it so hard to purchase one? There are hundreds of them in our community and yet the city is land banking most of them! The question  is: why? And for whom?

I have to say that former Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin, as controversial as he was, did much to promote homeownership, especially in the old 1st Ward and in South Buffalo where the infamous Hickory Woods housing development is located. Many of the homes in the Ellicott District were built when Griffin was a city council member and that area near the 1st Ward was in his district.

Anyone pushing the building of rental units over homeownership is using the same playbook that those who want to displace African Americans from our own community are using! The immigrants who are settling in Buffalo are buying homes. They are not using their section 8 or their personal money paying rent that gives no return on their monetary investment. There are ‘Cash for your house’ signs on almost every eastside street. Out of town investors are sending post cards and phone calls trying to separate the homeowner from the house he is still living in! Some of those who call or visit the homes of some of our senior citizens are very forceful and are threatening and harassing the homeowner. This should not be happening in a city that has self-described itself as the “City of Good Neighbors!”

     This failure of the current and next administration to promote homeownership will be documented, not by beautiful, well- kept houses and apartments owned by eastside Blacks; but by parents whose only legacy and inheritance to their children and grandchildren is a dresser  drawer full of rent receipts that are not even worth the paper and ink used to write them!  (Betty Jean Grant is founder of We Are Women Warriors)

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