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Municipal property acquisition patterns in a shrinking city, Evidence for the persistence of an urban growth paradigm in Buffalo, NY

Date: Jan 27, 2015
Author(s): Robert Silverman, Kelly Patterson, Li Yin
Topic(s): Economic Development: General, Housing / Neighborhoods: General, Poverty / Income Inequality: General
Type: Publication

The purpose of this article is to examine municipal property acquisition patterns in shrinking cities. We use data from the City of Buffalo’s municipal property auction records to analyze the spatial distribution of properties offered for sale in its annual tax foreclosure auction. In addition to these data, we examine demolition and building permit records. Our analysis suggests that cities like Buffalo follow strategies based on an urban growth paradigm when responding to abandonment. This paradigm operates under the assumption that growth is a constant and urban development is only limited by fiscal constraints, underdeveloped systems of urban governance, environmental degradation, and resistance by anti-growth coalitions. We recommend that planners in shrinking cities de-emphasize growth based planning and focus on rightsizing strategies. These strategies are based on the assumption that growth is not a constant. Consequently, urban revitalization is concentrated in a smaller urban footprint.