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Council members wade through complexities of inclusionary zoning

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

Common Council members say they back inclusionary zoning, which requires new housing to set aside a certain percentage of units as affordable housing.  While most agree upon the goal, finding common ground on the specifics is proving to be more difficult.

"While I think in theory that we need to protect everyone in the City of Buffalo, especially people that live in neighborhoods that are being gentrified. I think that we also have to realize that there are other parts of the city that have not had this same problem," said Council member Joseph Golombek.

"I would like to have that problem. I have gun shots in my district. I have people getting killed in my district. I would like to have the gentrification problem to worry about."

The Council will soon receive a study the city's affordable housing problem. Some of the affordable housing problem stems from gentrification. Some stems from formerly cheap housing being turned into expensive housing.

"There's a lot that needs to be hashed out," said Council member Chris Scanlon. 

"Obviously, there's a need for the units and the Council is on record saying we want to help assist in however we can. But, I just want everyone here in the room and everyone one at home who may be watching to understand that this is a complex issue and there is no real simple answer to it."

A proposal gaining support would require projects to set aside 30 percent of its new units as affordable housing. It's a number that has receieved some push back. 

"We promised that it wouldn't  be just be rammed down people's throat, rammed down developers' throats," said Council President Darius Pridgen. 

"I think that there are some people who are afraid of any policy because of money grab. And so, I think together we work together and I've said it before, with developers, with people, but also remembering that we do have an affordable housing problem."

There's a perception that inclusionary zoning would put the brakes on development because some projects would no longer be profitable. Golombek says some of his constituents are worried that the effort this might keep development from moving into their neighborhood.


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.