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Regional land bank completes two new-build homes in Riverside

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Two single-family homes are now built and ready for new owners in Buffalo's Riverside neighborhood, after the regional land bank worked with a minority- and women-owned construction firm to build the houses on formerly empty lots.

The Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp. – whose mission is to return vacant or abandoned properties to use – teamed up with Onyx Global Group and a team of contractors and architects to build the houses at 149 and 159 Crowley Ave. The two houses cost a total of $410,000 to construct, and will now be made available for purchase to qualified homebuyers earning no more than the area median income.

"We need more housing in Buffalo. We are past demolitions," said BENLIC Executive Director Jocelyn Gordon. "What we need are moderately priced homes in these types of neighborhoods, where we are rebuilding the density."

BENLIC-press conference-Brenda-Calhoun

Brenda Calhoun, owner of minority- and women-owned contractor Onyx Global Group, speaks at a press conference by the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp. about a new house in Riverside.

The land bank used money from the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative grant, which in turn was funded by the state Attorney General's office with money from legal settlements with major banks after the Great Recession. The grant is overseen by Enterprise Community Partners. National Grid also provided a grant for the purchase of high-efficiency furnaces in both houses.

Besides Onyx, which is owned by Brenda Calhoun, the construction team included Santoro Construction, Conway and Co. Architects and ecoLogic Studio. "This has been not an easy task, but it has been fun," Calhoun said.

Poloncarz-BENLIC-press conference

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz speaks at a press conference by the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp. about a new house in Riverside.

The land bank - which was formed in 2012 in a partnership between the city and county, and is not funded with tax dollars - has now purchased and disposed of 180 properties countywide, including 80 rehabs and 15 newly built homes. "This is exactly why the land bank was created, to reinvest in neighborhoods, to ensure that we did not see a continual downward spiral in neighborhoods because of vacant homes," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.


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