“No revitalization effort can be executed without adequate capacity at the community level…”
The region’s housing support system — those groups and agencies working together to provide quality housing and strong neighborhoods — can do a better job.
The vast majority of the groups around the stakeholder committee are integral parts of the system, yet there was a general acknowledgment by the team that the system, as a whole, does not have the capacity to meet the very large quality housing need in Buffalo Niagara.
Though staffed by committed and industrious people, the resources for community development work have been steadily dwindling, exemplified by a vast reduction in Community Development Block Grant funding at the federal level.
Other regions have reorganized and revamped their community development systems on a broad scale to provide for skill specialization and scalable capacity.
Though Buffalo Niagara has studied the issue in depth and implemented portions of the resulting recommendations, additional work needs to be done by the groups on the ground and the agencies and organizations that fund and support those groups, to reconceptualize how the pieces of the system work together.
At the same time, resistance to housing assistance is too common throughout the region, from the city neighborhoods to second ring suburbs and places in between. Though studies have repeatedly shown high quality affordable housing can positively influence neighborhood conditions and housing values, resistance to new projects, and resistance to seeking help is widespread. There is a collective need for public education regarding the role that workforce housing can provide in changing lives and improving neighborhoods.
Similarly, code enforcement is often viewed as a punitive tool for going after unscrupulous property owners. While code enforcement is certainly a powerful tool for dealing with problem property owners, it can also be a tool for helping well meaning but struggling homeowners connect with the resources they need to improve their houses. Here, again, greater coordination and collaboration is the key.
Many thanks to the Complete Communities stakeholder group for their honest and critical analysis of the field. Their willingness to examine what’s working and what could be improved has been a crucial step to moving One Region Forward, and rounding out the strategies to improve housing and neighborhoods across Buffalo Niagara.
Complete Communities Strategies
A. Reconsider the scope and scale of the housing support system, increasing region-wide capacity and remain responsive to local concerns.
B. Better protect renters and home buyers. Develop better opportunities, supports and protections for renters and home buyers, particularly from traditionally vulnerable groups.
C. Cultivate a positive image of housing program to improve participation and community acceptance.
D. Improve the code enforcement system and link it to housing education and support programs.
The full Complete Communities for a Changing Region report is available here.