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Mayor Brown hints of forthcoming mixed-income housing plan at conference

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Buffalo played host Wednesday to a conference on affordable housing at the Hotel Henry. During welcoming remarks, the mayor hinted of an upcoming plan to create such housing throughout his city.

The 14th annual New York State Association for Affordable Housing Upstate Conference featured a panel discussion and small group sessions exploring how to create and maximize affordable housing. The conference began with the Association's president and chief executive officer, Jolie Milstein, telling an audience that New York State's budget includes a five-year, $2.5 billion fund to combat homelessness and build more affordable housing.

Buffalo mayor Byron Brown followed by announcing that the city will soon roll out an affordable housing development plan. Following his remarks, he told WBFO that the plan has been in development since last year and that more details will be revealed in the near future.

"The city, through its Housing Opportunities Strategy, will be initiating a variety of new programs and initiatives to focus on affordable housing and building mixed-income neighborhoods throughout the City of Buffalo," Brown said.  

Milstein supports the idea of mixed-income housing development, saying it rebuilds neighborhoods without pushing away those who have lived in them.

"When you put the capital into preserving or creating affordable housing units, those rents are stable, unlike market rents which can rise uncontrolled," Milstein said. "When you invest in affordable housing, the rents are intentionally kept at a place where people from the community can continue to live there."

Milstein added that affordable housing projects often times bring with them the additional commercial development sought for those neighborhoods. 

"When you invest the capital in affordable housing, you're often bringing with it community services, retail opportunities, day cares, businesses that might not be able to locate in those neighborhoods if it were not for not for this investment in the housing projects."

Brown told WBFO the city's plan will use a mix of local and state resources. Although stating further details would be announced at a later date, he did disclose the mixed-income housing plan will include "super bid power" to eradicate zombie properties.

"Super bid power gives us the ability in foreclosure auctions to step ahead of investors," the mayor said. "What we have done using this power, once already, is acquire 48 properties from out-of-town absentee landlords. We are now going to work with people in the neighborhoods around those properties to help people who are renters become homeowners."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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