By Jolie Milstein and Byron W. Brown
There are few things more important to residents than access to quality, affordable housing. When low- and middle-income families can afford their homes, it provides financial relief for other essentials. Housing is one of the foundations for achieving positive growth across our communities.
Buffalo, like the rest of the state, is facing an urgent housing crisis. Half of all renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. But municipalities across New York are taking action through investment, public-private partnerships and commitments from various stakeholders.
The City of Buffalo’s approach offers important lessons for others who are focused on this crisis. That success is part of the reason why the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) is in Buffalo this week to highlight ongoing efforts and recently completed developments at its annual upstate conference.
Buffalo’s investments in affordable housing have provided approximately 2,000 new affordable homes since 2006 – progress that is continuing with the support of state funding, even at a time when concern is rising over potential federal cuts.
Government and industry leaders can come together to address problems beyond the reach of either individually. For example, a public-private partnership played a crucial role in success at the Parkview Apartments, which transformed a vacant former school building – the former School 59 – into 26 new affordable homes for low-income residents. The City of Buffalo contributed funds and worked closely with the developers, R+A+R Development and SA+A Development, to make the project successful. Similar success was achieved at the former School 60.
Another example is the Evergreen Lofts, which utilized city funds and private support to provide 56 new affordable homes, including 28 designated for residents living with HIV/AIDS. This project is a reminder that affordable housing plays a role in lifting up all members of the community, including those with additional needs.
Of course, there are challenges ahead. We urge officials across New York State to join advocates like NYSAFAH in pushing the federal government to strengthen housing programs such as the low-income housing tax credit, which plays a vital role in building and preserving affordable homes. Any disinvestment at the federal level will make it more difficult to replicate these successes.
It is crucial for city leaders to unite in urging the State Legislature to support new and ongoing funding for statewide housing programs. We must ensure that state officials continue to move forward in addressing New York’s housing crisis.
It is our hope that by shining a light on a few of the developments that have positively changed lives here in Buffalo, we can elevate the discussion about affordable housing in New York State and provide blueprints for success. We look forward to working with public and private stakeholders to do just that.
Jolie Milstein is president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing. Byron W. Brown is mayor of Buffalo.