History is Important to This City

July 19, 2016
Jenna Boland

The more time I spend in Buffalo, the more I realize how important history is to this city. Thankfully in the Pre-Course we learned about Buffalo’s rise and decline and revitalization. However nothing prepared me for learning about Buffalo’s history then researching housing. Buffalo is known for having an interesting housing market. Rent is considered affordable, lower than other cities, but still too high for many of Buffalo’s low income residents. Property values double switching from neighborhood to neighborhood. Vacant houses and buildings line streets everywhere, even on Main Street.

Buffalo got to this point through a rapid decline in population. From 1950 to 2000 the City of Buffalo lost half its population. This left many houses empty, and to never be filled. In the recent decade population decline has slowed down, mainly due to immigrants and millennials coming to Buffalo counterattacking those who are leaving the area. To attract these new residents, mainly middle class, college graduate millennials, new apartments were/are being built. Canalside was completed and downtown is scattered with construction in the hopes of expanding Buffalo.

However little attention was paid to the old buildings and houses that had not been used in many years. Visiting the Northland Corridor ReDevelopment Project illustrated how once a company moves out of the area, the huge buildings and parking lots stay. They are difficult and expensive to rehabilitate, but if nothing is done to them, they sit vacant as eye sores in the neighborhood. While houses are easier to demolish or rehabilitate, vacant houses increase crime and decrease property values in the area around them.

My project for the Western New York Law Center is about these properties, specifically, in the city limits. I am writing a report about the condition Buffalo is in, its vacancy rate is well above the national average, and recommendations for the future, specifically a vacant and abandoned property registry. How the city was planned and how it developed is very important to the present issue. We have enough housing for the population of Buffalo, but lack safe and affordable options. Expansion and development is great, but we have to remember the vacant structures in our communities.