Reflection on Buffalo’s Poverty Rate & Concrete Steps to Alleviate Poverty in the City of Buffalo – Betty Jean Grant

In the last ten years, Buffalo’s has received over 100 million dollars of Community Development Block Grants. … Buffalo not only has elevated poverty rates – we also rank ninth highest in abandoned housing in the nation of cities with populations over 250,000. Ultimately, the allocation of our Community Development Block Grant dollars has not effectively decreased or alleviated poverty in Buffalo citywide.

by Betty Jean Grant

Poverty is a serious condition that plagues our city. Studies have shown that close to 30 percent of our city’s residents, nearly 32,000 of Buffalo’s children live at or below the poverty line (i). According to a study in 2015, Buffalo has ranked among the top 10 cities with the highest concentrations of minorities living in poverty (ii). Some of our neighborhoods have a poverty rate as high as 60 or 80 percent, and rates that have doubled since the year 2000. More must be done to decrease Buffalo’s poverty rate citywide!

In the last ten years, Buffalo’s has received over 100 million dollars of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). CDBG are “federal funds used to assist with the development of viable neighborhoods by providing decent housing, a suitable living environment, and economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income persons.” Buffalo not only has elevated poverty rates – we also rank ninth highest in abandoned housing in the nation of cities with populations over 250,000 (iii). Ultimately, the allocation of our Community Development Block Grant dollars has not effectively decreased or alleviated poverty in Buffalo citywide.

CDBG allotment for 2016-2017 is $12,543,125 (iv). My administration will strategically allocate these funds to target high ranked poverty zip codes citywide. The greater community need, the larger the allocation. I plan to extend city operated community center hours to 9 PM, six days a week. Offering residents with educational, mentoring, tutorial, drug prevention, 1st time home buying, emergency housing repair, and employment training programs (specifically in growing occupations in Western New York) under one roof, in the various community centers throughout the city of Buffalo.
These programs will cultivate educational growth, create home ownership and increase chances for residents of all ages to qualify for living wage jobs. Because many of the well paying jobs in our region are outside of the city lines, I would partner with NFTA to create/increase bus routes and with other private transportation companies like Uber and Lyft to establish accessible transport to and from job sites that are beyond city bus lines.

I will institute Inclusionary Zoning – planning ordinances that require a given share of new construction to be affordable to people with low to moderate incomes. I will create Community Benefits Agreements – contracts between community groups and real estate developers. These agreements will require developers requesting consideration for tax break incentives to provide specific amenities and/or mitigations to the local community or neighborhood. Also, I will set and enforce Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) goals for every city-awarded contract. Each initiative is vital to addressing the disparity between wealth and poverty and opportunity in our neighborhoods.

We will actively write and compete for grants. We will research what has positively worked in cities of similar population size and partner with New York State Senate, Assembly, and governor, as well as U.S. Senators and our Congressmen, to allocate resources to develop educational, economic, and employment opportunities to enhance the quality life for all residents.

Lastly, I believe dollars confiscated from illegal activities should be placed in a fund to help the families of homicide victims, especially those where a case has remained open and never been settled. These dollars could be overseen by the office of the Mayor and the Victims Compensation Board. The sole purpose would be to assist families dealing with the tragedy of losing a loved one to homicide and to narrow the pipeline to prison for children experiencing the collateral damage of violence, (i.e. college scholarships, educational program grants, college exploration trips, mental health counseling, etc.)

As we create and improve educational, economic, and gainful employment opportunities for ALL, we will make progressive strides in reducing centralized poverty, violence, and blight, and see growth in all sections of our city.

Betty Jean Grant is a Democratic primary candidate in in Buffalo’s 2017 mayoral election. She currently serves as an Erie County Legislator. The Democratic primary is scheduled for Tuesday, September 12, 2017.

CounterPoint

Content for August 2017 supported by Buffalo Theatre Guide.

(i) Rey, Jay, “More than half of Buffalo children live in poverty, new census figures show,” The Buffalo News, 1 Oct. 2016
(ii) Gray, Callan, “New study shows Buffalo has one of the highest minority poverty rates,” WIVB.com, 7 September 2015.
(iii) Masson, Marc J., “Vacant and Abandoned Housing in Buffalo,” Partnership for the Public Good, December 2014.

(iv) Brown, Byron J., “2016 Annual Action Plan,” 1 October 2016.

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