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Using Publicly-Owned Vacant Land to Advance Sustainability and Equity in Buffalo, New York

Date: Feb 24, 2023
Author(s): Sam Magavern
Topic(s): Environment: Food, Environment: General, Environment: Land Use, Environment: Parks, Gardens, and Green Spaces, Health: General, Housing / Neighborhoods: General, Housing / Neighborhoods: Neighborhood Renewal, Housing / Neighborhoods: Policies and Programs
Type: Report

The City of Buffalo owns roughly 8,000 vacant lots. Over 3,000 acres of land, these vacant parcels are largely the result of historic discriminatory land policies, which encouraged white flight and left thousands of empty homes vulnerable to demolition. When the dust settled, the City found itself with thousands of vacant lots, many of which it has not sufficiently maintained ever since.

Examples from Buffalo and around the nation prove, however, that vacant urban land can be repurposed for affordable housing, community gardens, urban farms, parks, playgrounds, trails, green infrastructure, public art, and other beneficial uses.

These reuses generate jobs, improve neighborhoods, and attract more residents and visitors, thus helping rebuild the City’s tax base. The City should work with residents and community groups to create a plan for its vacant land focused on equity and sustainability, and it should enact policies to clean and green publicly-owned properties and make them available for neighborhood-led uses.

Cities around the country are lamenting that they did not make better use of their vacant lots while they had the chance; Buffalo has a critical opportunity to learn from their experience and become a national leader in vacant land policy.