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Pridgen says $1 billion is needed to fix BMHA properties

There was $1 billion spent to fix the Buffalo school buildings.

There was $1 billion allocated to kick-start the Buffalo economy.

Now, Council President Darius G. Pridgen is suggesting $1 billion is needed to fix up Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority properties.

"I don't see how you can redo the BMHA for less than a billion," Pridgen said at a recent Council meeting in response to residents who came to complain about conditions at Buffalo housing authority complexes.

"There has to be some request to HUD," Pridgen added, referring to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the Buffalo housing authority.

Soon after making the statement, Pridgen wrote to Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-N.Y.) as well as Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) asking them to help obtain additional federal funding for renovations and other improvements to BMHA properties.

Pridgen didn't mention any specific dollar figure in his letter but noted that some of the BMHA complexes built in the 1940s and 1950s haven't seen any major renovations over the years.

Given the costs of prior major projects, such as the schools reconstruction, it's likely a BMHA-wide renovation would require $1 billion, but a study should be done to determine the current figure, Pridgen said Tuesday.

A 2013 study estimated it would cost $300 million to upgrade the BMHA's 27 housing complexes at that time. A separate report pegged the cost of overhauling just the Commodore Perry homes, as well as the surrounding neighborhood, at $200 million.

"It is our elected responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our communities," Pridgen wrote in his letter, which mentioned the need for "federal funding streams to provide the needed renovations and enhancements to the properties of the BMHA."

A copy of the letter was sent to Mayor Byron W. Brown, who endorsed Pridgen's request, as did BMHA executive director Gillian Brown.

"Mayor Byron Brown joins the Buffalo Common Council in urging our federal delegation to fight for additional funding for public housing," said the mayor's spokesman, Michael J. DeGeorge.

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"BMHA welcomes Council President Pridgen's involvement and agrees that additional funding is necessary," said Gillian Brown.

Higgins, who has been pushing for management reforms at the BMHA in recent years, responded that he'd also like to see additional funding for housing authority renovations, and promised to continue advocating on the BMHA's behalf.

But Higgins said  inadequate federal funding isn't the sole reason for the run-down condition of many BMHA buildings.

"BMHA's consistently poor leadership and management are also to blame," Higgins wrote. "Other public housing authorities, faced with the same federal funding constraints, are not plagued with the same vacancy rates, the same low physical inspection scores, the same poor financial performance, nor do they have the same track record of significant findings of financial mismanagement from government auditors at every level."

City officials acknowledge past problems, but said new BMHA leadership is working to address them.

"The new executive director and board members are working aggressively and quickly to resolve the outstanding issues and concerns at the BMHA," DeGeorge said.

DeGeorge was referring to Gillian Brown, no relation to Mayor Brown, who was named BMHA executive director in October. He replaced Dawn Sanders-Garrett, who resigned in March after almost a decade on the job.

 

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