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Commission Explores Raising Housing Standards

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – A blue ribbon commission is working to determine the best solutions for raising housing standards in Buffalo and Erie County. It's an effort to create safe and livable homes. At a public hearing Monday night, residents will have a chance to speak to the commission and offer creative ways to improve housing standards.

A local urban housing expert says there is a "serious problem" with the number of homes that need repairs, especially in Buffalo. Dr. Henry Taylor, director of the Center for Urban Studies at the University at Buffalo, chairs the County Legislature's Blue Ribbon Housing Panel.

Dr. Taylor says many homes need a great deal of repair inside and out -- from structural to environmental. He says there are also a number of older homes in the city. Many were built prior to the 1930s.

"You'll find prches that aren't fixed, gutters that need of repair and roofs that leak," Tayllor said. "You also have other dangers in homes including radon gas, airborne pollutants and rodent infestation."

The Blue Ribbon Housing Panel was formed last summer to offer recommendations on establishing "minimum housing standards." Dr. Taylor says while there are a number of laws on the books for housing codes, new standards are needed.

"We don't want to just have laws that say houses should meet certain standards," Taylor continued. "We need to have a process in place that can raise everyone to those standards."

Dr. Taylor says there are a number of low to moderate income homeowners who can "simply not afford" to keep up with repairs. And he says there are also a number of vacant, city owned lots that are not maintained, adding to the blight.

Dr. Taylor says the panel will try to create a list five to ten strategic solutions for housing standards. He expects a report to be issued to the County Legislature by late June or early July.

Monday night's public hearing begins at 5:30 and will be held at the Buffalo Museum of Science.