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RX For City Housing

Buffalo: Our city, our home. It is heard in many circles that Buffalo is the city of no illusions, and yet it seems that our politicians have some very serious illusions about the ways in which Buffalo will once again be able to thrive.

As we all know, many of our neighborhoods look like shit; there is a serious class divide here, as well as a very serious racial divide that provides for some very serious self-segregation. Both of these issues intersect in more ways than one.

I am concerned. As some of you may or may not know, almost the whole city is up for tax auction this year. When a property is not purchased from a private buyer, or an LLC corporation, it gets struck to the city. This makes the city itself the single largest landholder. What’s bothersome about this fact is that very often private owners are brought into Housing Court for various outstanding violations on their property. However, the city does not maintain that same accountability for themselves, with vacant buildings left to rot and crumble before our eyes. Now that just seems like incredibly bad business. If I had my way, us everyday citizens would be banding together to file a class-action suit to make them accountable. But that won’t happen, so maybe there are other avenues that our city leaders should try to explore.

One idea is very simple: create a rent-to-own strategy, allowing for people on the lower end of the economic spectrum a chance to become homeowners. Well, you say, many of these houses are not livable, requiring massive amounts of rehabilitation which many poor people can’t afford. As we all know, Buffalo is severely lacking in a steady and stable employment base, especially for those hardworking, blue-collar folks. What the city does not seem to understand is that this is perfect fodder for a very win-win situation for everyone. So this is what needs to be done to accomplish three goals in one: 1) City-sponsored and paid-for vocational training will employ contractors as teachers, give people the tools necessary for workmanship and a viable life-long skill. Very cut and dry. 2) At the end of vocational training, give people rehabilitation jobs on city-owned, and only city-owned, properties. And pay them a living wage. This will help fix declining neighborhoods and make homes livable. It will also employ people and help put a few bucks in their pockets. 3) Then, once the homes are rehabbed, have an application process for those earning a certain wage, to implement this rent-to-own strategy. Make the final payments cheap, and get these properties out of the city’s hands. Also very cut and dry. The city wins, because someone takes responsibility, they make a nice profit, the taxes start getting paid; tenants win, because they then become homeowners, and stop having to throw all their money away into rent. Then, people can start saving money, and when that happens, they then begin to have the ability to put in small businesses.

Very win-win, right? No one really loses.

To the nay-sayers: There are far worse endeavors that our tax money is being used to fuel. For example, anti-poverty money being spent on Blackberrys for city employees; $2 billion spent on digitalizing television. I mean, come on. Is any of that necessary? Or does any of that actually go to benefit our city, our country, the people living here who are broke as a joke, or homeless?

We don’t have fiscal accountability or responsibility in this country, and it is a sad trend that trickles down to the vacant houses that we live across from, next to, or simply see on the morning commute. And it doesn’t have to be that way. The money is there, but it’s being thrown into stupid projects that don’t accomplish anything tangible or necessary.

Amanda D. Mulrain


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