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Activists tell Buffalo Common Council: pass and enforce inclusionary zoning

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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Activists from several local community groups gathered at City Hall to relay a message to members of the Buffalo Common Council. They believe gentrification is showing itself in Buffalo's redevelopment and, unless the city implements and enforces inclusionary zoning, will eventually price longtime residents out of their homes.

The coalition delivered their anti-gentrification message to members of the Common Council's Community Development Committee during their Tuesday afternoon meeting. Before visiting Council Chambers, activists met on the front steps of City Hall.

Luz Velez, who described herself as "abled disabled," said many who are living on fixed incomes, are of low incomes, do not speak English or are otherwise disadvantaged feel voiceless as they find themselves unable to pay rent. As neighborhoods redevelop, they fear they'll be pushed out by market-value housing.

Velez and others called on city leaders to move forward with inclusionary zoning, which would allow lower-income residents access to some of the housing units within a new development.

"There's a lot of community investment that we need to be looking at, that impacts people who don't have the voice, who don't have the power and feel disenfranchised," she said. "We're tired and here to say look, this has got to stop. You've got to include us. That's what inclusionary means. Include us."

Speakers suggested that many of the people who left the city during its harder times are now coming back, but are fueling the gentrification that is already infringing on longtime neighborhoods. Dennice Barr, with the Fruit Belt Advisory Council, says the growth of the nearby Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus has already caused problems with local streets because of increased use, wear and tear. Those problems, Barr said, include dozens of potholes and other infrastructural damage.

Speakers were asked how serious the the threat may be considering Mayor Brown's administration has not raised property taxes in several years.

"Mayor Brown didn't raise city taxes but Mayor Brown reassessed our properties just before the last election," Barr said. "I don't care what anybody says, If you're 70, 80, 90 years old and living on a fixed income, I don't care how small the assessment is. You're still looking to push people out of their homes."

Activists say they chose the Buffalo Common Council's Community Development Committee meeting to come forward because the agenda included discussion of health equity, and a report that highlights disparity. They're concerned the same will happen with housing as the city continues to redevelop, unless the city enforces inclusionary zoning.

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