With WNY on the upswing, low-income families finding fewer quality housing opportunities
The City of Buffalo is seeing a resurgence that many of us never thought we would see in our lifetime. New buildings are going up and businesses that never gave Buffalo serious thought are now lining up to purchase commercial space for immediate and future development, all of which is tremendous news for the city by the lake and its surrounding suburbs.
As a result, housing prices are also skyrocketing. Again, that’s good news if you currently own a home in the 716. For those now looking to buy, many are already finding themselves priced out of the market. And those who rent, especially in the city, are dealing with dramatically increasing monthly payments, making the cost of quality rental housing a big burden on our low-income residents.
For example, many newer one-bedroom apartments located within the city limits are now going for approximately $1,000 per month and up, plus some utilities. An employee of the nonprofit Rural Outreach Center (ROC) was shocked recently when he discovered one new apartment complex asking nearing $3,000 per month, plus utilities, for a two-bedroom apartment close to downtown Buffalo.
With city rental rates rising so quickly, community leaders wonder if low-income families will turn their housing search to the suburbs and beyond. Unfortunately, the statistics don’t bode well for that scenario as 62 percent of individual’s currently living in poverty in Erie County already live outside the city. And according to the ROC, the rural poor already struggle to reach necessary services that are more spread out, along with fewer resources and less transportation options.
These alarming statistics have been supported by recent articles in The Wall Street Journal (Rural America is the New Inner City, May 27), The Buffalo News (The Other Side of Buffalo’s Rental Boom? Not Enough Low-income Apartments, June 19) and The Atlantic (Escaping Poverty Requires Almost 20 Years With Nearly Nothing Going Wrong, April 27).
“As rents go up and people can’t find housing, they are going to move out of the city and rely on organizations like the ROC to serve their needs,” said Frank Cerny, executive director of the East Aurora-based Rural Outreach Center. “If the ROC and other nonprofit organizations — who are already dealing with budget cuts — are not here to help them, it’s very unlikely that these families will ever make their way out of poverty.”
The ROC, for example, offers a wide variety of social services for those living in Western New York’s rural communities, including housing-related programs such as home repair and rebuilding services. Another vital service of the ROC is the New Path Redistribution Center, where individuals in need can purchase home appliances and furniture at greatly reduced prices.
“The low-wage sector needs housing assistance now more than ever,” Cerny concluded. “It’s up to all of us — community leaders, politicians, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, churches and concerned individuals — to come together in finding solutions.”