Archive for April, 2010

Business First of Buffalo reports that WNY has the second most affordable housing stock of all the major metropolitan regions in the US with Rochester being the most affordable.

What seems to be lacking in this article is the meaning of affordable housing. Affordable for whom? How does one define what constitutes affordable?

According to the US Census Bureau’s American FactFinder, in the City of Buffalo 33.2% of all housing units with mortgages pay more that 30% of their household income on housing. Even more disturbing is that a staggering 55.8% of renters pay more than 30% of their income for housing. The percentage of people whose housing costs are unaffordable is very similar in Rochester and other metros.

Of course we cannot forget that there are roughly 2,000 people every night who cannot afford any housing and are homeless in Buffalo.

So, really, how affordable is housing in WNY? Or in any of these other major metro regions?

These kinds of reports almost always ignore the large number of people in our cities whose housing costs are unaffordable. To accurately talk about the housing situation in our metro regions we must talk about the millions of minimum and low wage workers who struggle with very basic housing costs.

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One of the strongest themes running through the debate over whether or not a local developer should be allowed to build subsidized apartments for the elderly in West Seneca is that there is something “undesirable” about the kind of people that live in subsidized housing:

“Their main concern is they don’t want subsidized housing in town,” Piotrowski said.

The bottom line, one town official said, is that many residents don’t want “a certain element” moving into West Seneca.

Something that the residents in West Seneca should keep in mind: any homeowner who takes advantage of the mortgage interest tax deduction while they’re filing for their taxes is living in federally subsidized housing.

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation’s Estimates of Federal Tax Expenditures for Fiscal Years 2008-2012, this year the Federal Government is spending $89.4 billion on mortgage interest tax deductions for primarily middle-upper income homeowners.

This year HUD will only be spending $25.936 billion on rental assistance for low-income individuals:

There are already many thousands of units of subsidized homeowners in West Seneca. Is there anything “objectionable” about that element?

For more info and analysis of the federal government’s subsidized housing policies see the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s
Changing Priorities: The Federal Budget and Housing Assistance 1976 – 2005 and the Western Regional Advocacy Project’s
Without Housing: Decades of Federal Housing Cutbacks, Massive Homelessness, and Policy Failures.

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A recent NYT article, Study Finds More Woes Following Foster Care, found that ¼ of young adults aging out of foster care are receiving public aid and about ½ of them are unemployed. Only 6% of these young adults had a college education compared to the 29% of their peer in the general population.

The results of this study reinforce an idea that we talk a lot about at the Homeless Alliance: It is incredibly difficult to escape poverty without strong support networks. Gary Stangler, director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, captures it well:

“When these kids make a mistake, it’s life altering, they have nothing to fall back on.”

Approximately 300,000 children a year age out of foster care, and as this study indicates, their prospects appear dim. As we think about the implications of this study, it’s imperative that we keep the words of Mark Courtney, lead researcher of the study, in mind:

“We took them away from their parents on the assumption that we as a society would do a better job of raising them (…)We’ve invested a lot money and time in their care, and by many measures they’re still doing very poorly.”

To get an idea of how difficult it can be when you’re starting from scratch with little support, try taking this year’s Buffalo Poverty Challenge.

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We invite you to join us for the 2010 Buffalo Poverty Challenge!

The Poverty Challenge is an exercise aimed at transforming how our community thinks about poverty and how to end it. Participants can attempt to live on the budget of a minimum wage worker or on the budget of someone at the federal poverty level.

Prominent local politcal, community, and business leaders like Mickey Kearns of Buffalo’s Common Council, Aaron Bartley of PUSH, and the Vukelic family of Try-it Distributing have taken the challenge. Visit www.povertychallenge.com to see their blog posts and videos about the diffculties they faced living at the poverty level.

This year we are partnering with www.WNYmedia.net who will be hosting the Poverty Challenge on their website.

To participate send an email to:


Write “I want to take the Poverty Challenge” in the subject.

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