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How will state's new rent control rules affect Buffalo?

Mike Desmond
New development usually comes with higher rents.

With Albany changing the rules on landlord and tenant relationships, Buffalo's tight housing market could be affected.

A package of housing bills passed in Albany does everything from allowing rent control statewide, instead of just in New York City and some neighboring counties, to limiting evictions as punishment for a tenant complaining about bad conditions.

For rent control, there has to be a vacancy rate under 5% - and Buffalo qualifies. Common Council members are starting to look at the new legislation and have city lawyers look at what this means to the fights over affordable housing and gentrification.

"There's a fear and the fear is heard," said Councilmember Ulysees Wingo, "and we are trying to address those concerns of the residents because it's not fair, it's inequitable and it's unethical, and we want to make sure that they know we have their best interests at heart as we move forward and do our due diligence to ultimately get fair housing and rent stabilization."

Wingo said he wants landlords and tenants to know the Council is looking out for tenants.

"We are doing our due diligence to make sure that this is something that will not adversely impact the housing market, but would also protect both the tenants and we also realize that the landlords have rights, as well," Wingo said. "So we want to make sure that everyone is protected as we move forward, but we're more concerned with folks that are being displaced because of rental hikes than we are of big developers who are coming in and charging money that we know the folk can't afford."

Majority Leader David Rivera said this is a big issue in his Niagara District because people are being pushed out from homes families may have rented for generations by rapidly rising rents and he wants to see how the new laws affect that gentrification.

"It's something that I'm very sensitive to, based on my constituents," said Rivera. "The last thing I want to hear is, 'I have to leave the house I've lived in because someone bought it and raised the rent 100%.' Unfortunately, we're startng to see some of that in Buffalo. There're speculators out there that are looking for a return on their investment and the prices are going up."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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