If we are to brainstorm new ways to repopulate the city of Buffalo, what are some of the ideas that come to mind? I believe that our housing stock is one of the keys to the solution. We need to focus on creating a type of housing stock that is virtually non-existent in Buffalo – well-built singles and doubles that are affordable, ready to move into, in neighborhoods that are safe and close to vibrant commercial districts. It would take an army of Joe Galvins to tackle the West Side, which is slowly happening but needs to be speeded up or better planned (block by block strategy). There are always people looking for decent, affordable housing stock that just doesn’t exist (without bidding wars). Many potential homeowners throw their hands up in the air and simply give up trying.
In the meantime, there are some creative ideas being bandied about in Buffalo, and other Rust Belt cities such as Detroit (coming up in Part 2). Ideas that that are geared towards bringing new people to repopulate the cities, if a desirable housing stock is made available. In Buffalo, Congressman Higgins has introduced legislation that would encourage US homeownership and home rentals by Canadians (a new “W” visa for Canadian nationals). The plan is to create a bill that would issue new visas that would allow Canadians (working in Canada) to live in the US (with spouse and/or minor children). Higgins feels that there would be plenty of economic benefits for Greater Buffalo if this strategy was to take hold. “From our automobile factories to sports franchises and vacation rental properties to retail outlets, the economies of Western New York and Southern Ontario are already deeply connected,” said Higgins. “This legislation only seeks to further advance the mutually beneficial and intertwined economies of our two friendly nations by welcoming Canadians as U.S. homeowners.”
· The visa is renewable every five years
· It is automatically approved if the visa-holder provides proof of continued ownership or rental of a residence in the United States.
· It makes it clear that the visa holder and their family are not authorized to work in the United States.
· It states that a W-Visa holder may keep their status even if the move to a new residence.
The new allowance to rent/purchase homes in Greater Buffalo would mean that Canadians would be able to take advantage of a lower priced housing market in close proximity to where they work.
Average home prices in the greater Niagara Region of Ontario are in excess of $280,000
According to the U.S. Census, the median home value in Niagara Falls, NY is $68,000
Lead image: Trying to find a house from the Elmwood Village to North Buffalo has proven to be extremely difficult. Additional desirable neighborhoods with decent housing stock and amenities is crucial. Would Canadians with a “W” visa be looking to fix up houses, or move into neighborhoods with houses that are “move-in” ready?