WBLK: "Community Groups Demand Help With Housing Quality in Buffalo, NY"

Date: February 15, 2024

Ed Nice | February 15, 2024

Finding a safe, legal, and affordable apartment in some of Western New York's neighborhoods is becoming harder ever single day. It's been known for several years that there is a shortage of affordable housing all over the 716, especially in the City of Buffalo and its first-ring suburbs.

While there isn't much that can be done about rising rents on the city/county level, officials do have options to combat the relatively low housing quality. A few years ago, officials from the City of Buffalo enacted a new law that was intended to help improve the quality by requiring all landlords to submit to quality inspections.

That law, which was passed by a unanimous vote from the Buffalo Common Council and subsequently signed by Mayor Brown, put Buffalo's Proactive Rental Inspection Program into place

PRI requires all non-owner occupied 1 and 2-unit properties to be registered as a rental property and be inspected annually by Buffalo's Department of Permits and Inspections. These rules apply to all rental units, whether occupied or vacant, and owners will be required to maintain an Annual Certificate of Rental Compliance. The goal of this program was to force landlords to ensure their properties meet New York State's required habitability standards, along with complying with fire safety rules and other health-related rules like mold, asbestos, rodents, and lead.

However, after more than three years, little progress has been made on the program. According to nearly 40 community groups who gathered in Niagara Square, less than 5,000 of Buffalo's more than 36,000 rental units have been inspected. Officials had claimed the planned to inspect around 6,000 units per year starting in 2021, however its clear they have fallen short.

Many people don't realize it, but Buffalo has a lead problem. An investigative report done by Reuters in 2017 stated that Buffalo's problems with lead are among the worst in the nation and make the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, look minor in comparison.

The 39 community groups delivered a letter to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's office demanding that the city begin complying with its own laws within 30 days and share proof. If they don't comply, the groups have stated they may pursue legal action against the city.

"If the city does not comply, we are prepared to look at legal action to enforce this law... We have used every traditional advocacy tool that we can, as you will know there has been relentless media stories about lead poisoning in Buffalo for 10 years. 30 years when you go back into media records. We've been in the Council, we've been with the department so there's not much left except to really keep pushing in the media and explore legal action." -Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, Executive Director, Partnership for Public Good

Read the WBLK article on their website, here.