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Another Voice: Benefits of affordable housing extend to everyone

By Jolie Milstein

From the Forge to the HELP Buffalo II, families in Buffalo have always been on the front line of fighting for affordable housing. That fight has only taken on greater importance as the borough gets less and less affordable for low- and middle-income families who are struggling to make ends meet.

Thankfully, the City of Buffalo – and all of New York – has taken a huge step forward in combating our state’s dire housing crisis, as the governor and State Legislature recently approved $2.5 billion for affordable and supportive housing.

With over 88,000 New Yorkers still homeless and more than half of statewide renters struggling to afford their homes, the housing funds could not have come at a more critical time.

The positive impact that affordable housing could have throughout Buffalo is astounding. In fact, New York’s affordable housing industry generated more than $54 billion in total economic impact across the state between 2011 and 2015, as we found in a recently released report.

Most of that spending took place within New York City, where more than 83 percent of the state’s subsidized housing – or around 106,000 affordable units – was built and preserved during that five-year period.

As we continue pushing for resources to build and preserve affordability across Buffalo and upstate New York, advocates should remember that benefits of these developments are not limited to the units of housing they provide.

Our analysis also found that affordable housing production supports more than 65,000 construction-related jobs annually across the state, including hard-hat jobs on the worksite and others involved in providing development materials.

The same buildings also provided more than 9,000 permanent jobs each year, such as those for building service workers and employees of ground-floor retail tenants in mixed-use projects.
Thousands are seeing the power of development firsthand in Buffalo. McCarley Gardens is undergoing a $35 million rehabilitation of all 150 apartments.

Updates to the affordable units include new plumbing, electrical systems and central air conditioning, along with 25 percent more green space for residents of the community.

While these new funds will have an enormous impact, there is still much more work to be done to address New York’s housing crisis.

As we continue to advocate in favor of safe, quality affordable housing for low- and middle-income families, we will continue to spread the word that well-planned projects provide the local spending and good-paying jobs that sustain neighborhoods and create pathways to the middle class – for residents of Buffalo and for all New Yorkers.

Jolie Milstein is president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing.

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