West Side Makes Progress

Sunday, November 6, 2011, 12:00 AM BUFFALO NEWS EDITORIAL BOARD

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West Side Makes Progress

Homeowners and community groups are leading a stunning turnaround

Much hard work has gone into making the West Side a better place than it was 10 years ago, and the payoff is shown in the rising home values in the neighborhood. The Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors says sale prices for homes located from Richmond Avenue to the Niagara River and from West Ferry Street to Porter Avenue have gone from an average of $23,000 in 2001 to $84,000 this year.

The steady progress is wonderful news, but not all of the West Side has yet benefited. There are pockets of affluence, but parts of the West Side continue to deal with abandoned homes and poor housing conditions.

In just one example, hundreds of residents waited in line last week at the Belle Center on the West Side for a share of four tractor-trailers full of food and supplies delivered by Feed the Children as part of the national organization’s “Americans Feeding Americans Caravan.”

Fortunately, a constellation of community groups—Habitat for Humanity, People United for Sustainable Housing, Massachusetts Avenue Project, West Side Ministries, Homefront, Westside Neighborhood Housing Services and Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc.—is working on the problem areas.
Their strategy is to make sure West Side residents benefit from neighborhood improvements by retaining community control of resources, developing co-op housing and making sure housing remains affordable.

John Leonardi, chief executive officer of the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors said, “We’re fortunate we have people dedicated to the community itself, building it up and turning it around.”

Harvey Garrett, executive director of the West Side Community Collaborative, said, “In a region that is losing population, in a city that is supposed to be declining, we have a neighborhood that is reviving itself through self-determination and dwarfing all other areas of the region in growth by tripling its property values over the past 10 years.”

Steady appreciation spurs reinvestment by other homeowners who want to be part of the trend. There are signs that the healthy appreciation is spreading to low-income neighborhoods on the West Side as well.

Individual homeowners and community groups are working to rehabilitate buildings, demolish derelict houses and create community gardens.

Their efforts are making the American Dream possible in this diverse community where residents of a variety of colors and cultures are looking for a stable neighborhood they can call home.

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