The Difference Between Houses and Homes
2017 High Road Fellow with Open Buffalo
Some people don’t see a difference between these two words. They are just synonyms for a place to live. For others, a house is just a place to live. A home is much different. It is where you live, but it is also a place where family comes together at every major holiday. Where memories have been made time and time again. Where generations of children have been raised.
For residents of Buffalo’s Fruit Belt, there is a difference between Houses and Homes. The Fruit Belt is a neighborhood that is at risk of being gentrified. Property values are increasing at rates where, at one point, Fruit Belt residents won’t be able to afford to even live in their homes.
Working with Open Buffalo this summer, I have been able to help in the fight against gentrification. I have attended meeting with the Community First Alliance, the collective action group the represents residents of the Fruit Belt. I have gone to Common Council meetings to watch as legislators debate inclusionary zoning, while hearing community input. I have learned about Community Land Trusts and their effectiveness. Now, I am planning an Anti-Gentrification Summit that brings together members of the community to help fight against gentrification.
At first glance, many people wouldn’t consider gentrification to be a glamorous issue. They’re right! Talking about how property values increase through development projects and how land trusts are established aren’t things you see people debating on television every day. However, there is an extreme necessity to talk about it. It is important to talk about because these are people’s homes. This is where people have lived for years upon years, building memories. I was taught in elementary school that humans have three basic needs: food, air, and shelter. Gentrification can take away one of those from people. That is why this fight is so important.
However, that is not to say what Buffalo has done in the recent years has been amazing. The utilization of natural resources, like Buffalo’s waterfront, has led to the construction of Canalside, which helps empower the local arts by providing concerts every Thursday night. The history of Buffalo has also proven to be an asset as Buffalo has the African American Heritage Corridor along Michigan Avenue, which includes part of the Underground Railroad.
Buffalo is a city on the rise. It is experiencing economic development and resurgence. However, it is not being distributed equitably. Residents of the Fruit Belt want to be a part of that development and deserve to be. While this development is promising, we must continue to understand the difference between houses and homes, so that everyone is included within Buffalo’s renaissance.