The collective momentum that is being felt throughout Buffalo Niagara is undeniable. The region is seeing new companies move into the area, village and urban centers revitalizing and historic buildings come back to life as places where people live, work and play.
But that sense of a return to prosperity has brought a host of new questions about what that perceptive success means for all of our population: Is Buffalo Niagara still an affordable place to live where all residents have access to a good quality of life? Are we building diversity and equity in our neighborhoods? Is gentrification impacting our neighborhoods and is it exacerbating segregation? These are important issues that can only be first answered by understanding where we are.
The first step is to understand the demand and supply. The City of Buffalo is commissioning an affordable housing market study, to be completed in 2017. This will provide an initial foundation to understand the issue and inform good planning and good policy for supporting a diversity of growth in the region.
It is important to note, however, that markets are not bound by municipal boundaries. The issue is one that must be evaluated on a regional level. We should consider how housing opportunities are provided equitably across the region and that neither poverty nor extreme wealth is systematically concentrated in any one area, furthering economic segregation. These issues were covered in a recent Buffalo News article, which alludes to the need to carefully understand address the affordability issue, while also ensuring that the region continues to experience growth.
When considering how we address affordability, we must also understand that there is a diverse set of solutions. Communities throughout the United States have explored a multitude of tools to stimulate the development of affordable housing including incentive zoning, grant programs and public private partnerships, to name a few.
The issue of affordability and diversity in Buffalo Niagara will continue to be a growing. We must be careful to first wholly understand the issue, identify what is required to address affordability needs and finally to consider the multitude of tools that can be used to fulfill those needs. This is a tremendous opportunity for our public and private sectors to work collectively together, moving forward.