Another Voice: Ryan's infill housing strategy is the right plan for Buffalo (The Buffalo News)

Henry-Louis Taylor, Jr.

Originally published in The Buffalo News on .

A News March 17 editorial stated that "housing is an urgent need." A key element of this need is facilitating the transformation of the East Side into a thriving community of neighborhoods by implementing an infill housing strategy.

The housing plan developed by Sen. Sean Ryan is exemplary and doable. Buffalo should work with him to make it happen.

A neighborhood analysis of vacant lots indicates that thousands have been randomly scattered across residential streets on the Black East Side.

"Vacant" lots are interwoven between owner-occupied houses and rental units on residential streets. They are more than an eyesore; they are ways the city-building process unbuilds a community.

When the city randomly moved through these neighborhoods, knocking down houses and other structures without replacing them, they were unwittingly "unmaking" communities.

You cannot turn the East Side into a great place to live without an infill housing strategy that also facilitates community remaking. That is the bottom line.

Current "affordable" housing strategies do not operate within a community context. Those strategies focus on profit-making by building huge apartment complexes that become ivory towers, disconnecting their tenants from the realities of everyday life and culture in the neighborhood.

In contrast, we seek to build a community based on unity, inclusion, belonging, and engagement. Of course, there is a place for apartment buildings in East Side transformation, but neighborhood residents should decide how they will be made part of the fabric of community life.

The Ryan infill strategy facilitates building a community, but other elements must be added to the in-fill strategy to make it work.

For example, the new in-fill housing must be structured within the neighborhood's existing urban design and layout. Residents must be engaged in designing and implementing the infill housing projects on their streets. The Ryan housing plan will invest millions of dollars and produce many jobs. The City must seize this opportunity by creating unique on-the-job training programs, ensuring that Black and Brown workers can participate in these infill housing projects.

The Ryan housing plan is a foundation that we can build on. Let's make it happen.

Henry-Louis Taylor, Jr., Ph.D. is Professor, U.B. Center for Urban Studies.