Mayor Brown has officially launched the City’s Demolition and Immediate Infill Housing ‘Pilot Program,’ which is part of the Homegrown Program. This particular program is in place to create more of an immediacy for problematic condemned, abandoned, and uninhabitable houses that require demolition.
Mayor Brown launched the program with a symbolic demolition of 33 Brunswick Blvd., in the City’s Masten District (Hamlin Park neighborhood). Within a year’s time, there will be a new house standing on this exact site – the timeline of the demolition and construction is one that is expedited to create a sense of urgency in neighborhoods that are experiencing a decline due to zombie houses.
“My administration and the City’s Office of Strategic Planning have been working with the Hamlin Park Taxpayers Association for the last 18 months to develop a first-of-its-kind process to replace a long-vacant structure which has been a blight to the community, with an affordable house for a new homeowner,” Mayor Brown said. “Through the involvement of Habitat for Humanity, neighbors can be sure the infill housing is affordable and tailored to the characteristics of the historic neighborhood.”
Along with removing eyesores, the program is intended to pave the way for home ownership opportunities.
This is a partnership model, between the City, the community, and a nonprofit organization – in this case the Hamlin Park Taxpayers Association, which is pitching in $15,000 to pay for design and material components to meet the preservation district requirements.
The Mayor’s Division of Real Estate identified 33 Brunswick Blvd. as the perfect house to launch the program, as the house was slated for demolition. And the quick construction turnaround means that there won’t be a vacant eyesore on the street for years to come, thus turning a “community liability into an asset.”
“This pilot program is another tool my Administration can use to fulfill our commitment to affordable housing and housing development that will add value and vibrancy to our neighborhoods which are battling blight,” Mayor Brown said.
“Over several years, the Division of Real Estate has worked intensely with the Hamlin Park community, in particular the Hamlin Park Taxpayer Association, on a solution for 33 Brunswick.” said Brendan R. Mehaffy, Executive Director, Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning. “Working together, Habitat for Humanity was identified to quickly replace the blighted structure on 33 Brunswick with a new structure that respects the historic character of the community and will be occupied by a low to moderate income family. The great collaboration with the Hamlin Park community has led to a new program that will benefit neighborhoods throughout the City of Buffalo.”
Moving forward, the program will next look to the Central Park neighborhood for the pilot program’s second project.
“Restoring Historic neighborhood streets require adding new structures that mirror the old,” Stephanie Barber-Geter, President of the Hamlin Park Taxpayers Association said. “Our collaboration with the City of Buffalo and Habitat for Humanity has allowed for new generation ideas supported by old- school engineering to build for our next generation of homeowners. Many Hamlin Park neighborhood homes are close to 100 years old with some becoming too costly to maintain. Infill housing done right helps us keep streets full of homes for families.
“This project is an excellent example of residents coming together to better their neighborhood,” said Teresa Bianchi, Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity Buffalo. “Residents identified a problem in their community and the municipality brought together the appropriate agencies to solve the problem. We will be able to provide this neighborhood with a new, affordable home, that will be purchased by a hardworking family. This would not be possible if not for all of the stakeholders in this community coming together.”
“Mayor Brown has been very responsive to my District’s desires to ensure that dilapidated structures that deteriorate and add blight to our communities are taken down,” Masten District Common Council Member Ulysses O. Wingo, Sr. said. “Over the years, hundreds of structures have been demolished and as the Councilman for the Masten District, I know firsthand how important it is to our constituents to make sure that these houses are not havens for rodents and other negative elements.”
Construction of 33 Brunswick Blvd. will get underway in late April or early May. If the new residence built on the property is an attractive one that is well built, and the demolition and construction costs are reasonable (equating to reasonably priced home ownership), then this should be considered a win all around. The best end result would be additional investments by the private sector, following the footprints of these undertakings. It will be interesting to see how many blighted properties the City will tackle per year, once the pilot program is assessed.
Photos courtesy City of Buffalo