BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – As rumors swirl about a future Bills football stadium displacing hundreds of tenants at the Commodore Perry Homes public housing complex just east of downtown, Rep. Brian Higgins is calling on the government to help those residents now.
The Buffalo congressman announced his plans for improving life in the Perry complex, Monday, to refurbish 12 vacant buildings, containing 172 empty apartments, but faced some tough questions from many of Perry’s tenants who gathered for Higgins’s news conference.
Perry is owned and managed by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, whose plans have called for demolishing the empty buildings and replacing them with new ones. Higgins said it would be cheaper to remodel those two- and three-story apartment buildings, “They were all well-built with brick, and they were all properly maintained in terms of the roofs.”
But as Higgins was making his presentation, tenants interrupted, demanding to know what would happen to them. Perry’s tenant council president Dorothy Flakes suspects the new interest in the Perry Homes is a step toward gentrification, “((We know what we are surrounded by, we know this is primary land. So we already know what is going to happen here.”
Higgins tried to assure the tenants the refurbished apartments would be part affordable, part market rate housing, and said talk of a new Bills football stadium displacing the housing complex is just that—talk.
“It is not acceptable that we allow these conditions to persist in our community, on the possibility that somebody may want to put a stadium down here someday. We need to demonstrate strong leadership now.”
Mayor Byron Brown says the city is also working on a plan to improve the Perry apartments with a mixture of affordable and market rate housing.
“We do not want to see any displacement of low income residents, while at the same time, we are looking to build mixed income, mixed use diverse communities where we have people of different income levels living in close proximity to one another.”
Higgins estimates refurbishing those 12 vacant apartment buildings would cost about $33 million and said he has a couple developers interested in taking the project. Mayor Brown said he will announce the city’s plans in the near future.