Marlies Wesolowski is executive director of the Matt Urban Center, which is spearheading efforts on the East Side, involving mostly Muslim congregants of Masjid Zakariya on Sobieski Street, to build new homes or upgrade existing ones around the mosque. She discussed the project.
>Q: Where and how are you beginning this project?
A: The neighborhood we're targeting in Phase 1 is a 16-block area that is bound by Broadway to the south, Walden to the north, Loepere to the east and Sobieski to the west. The project is called "Crescent Village" because if you look at where people work, live and play you will see that it forms a crescent shape.
Because the neighborhood needs so much, we decided from a planning perspective that no one thing was going to be the silver bullet. So we have worked hard to put together a comprehensive approach to the neighborhood including securing funding through Congresswoman Louise Slaughter's office in the amount of $472,000 to do targeted demolition. We're hopeful we'll be able to tear down between 30 to 40 homes in that area. Unfortunately, we need to take down about 70.
>Q: How will improvements be funded?
A: We have received $62,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank to assist homeowners in our target area who have minor code or housing violations in correcting these problems. This could be anything from small repairs and painting to yard work costing no more than $5,000. We believe we can help at least 10 to 12 homeowners within our target area.
We have also secured $150,000 from the Affordable Housing Corp. and $129,600 from New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal to assist 10 to 12 homeowners in doing major home repairs. Grant awards can be as much as $30,000 to income-eligible homeowners. And we have access to funding from the state agency and the City of Buffalo to purchase some homes that are either owned by the city or by individuals, for the purpose of rehabilitating them and then reselling them to persons interested in moving into the community who might not be able to afford either a new build at market rate, or a subsidized new build.
>Q: How many market rate houses are complete?
A: We've been working with nine individuals who are planning to build market rate homes. We are acting as a facilitator for them. The individuals are at various stages in the building process. To date, we have one market rate house that is about 90 percent complete. We estimate the market rate homes to be valued at between $150,000 to a little over $200,000.
>Q: How far along is the subsidized housing portion?
A: We're in the process of receiving the city approvals we need to build 10 subsidized single-family, low- to moderate-income homes. We have just now received approval from the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency and the control board to get access to $115,000 in predevelopment funding. The funding will allow us to put together a development team. We're asking the architect to help develop four models, using parameters we spelled out after more than 200 people attended various community meetings and told us the types and styles of homes they would like built in the neighborhood.