Reforming Urban Renewal

Like many cities across the nation, Buffalo began designating urban renewal areas in the late 1950s.  Originally targeted for the removal of slums and blight, these plans quickly became associated with the demolition of low-income neighborhoods.

Subsequent urban renewal plans (URPs) moved away from the focus on eminent domain and slum clearance and began serving as a means of addressing Buffalo’s increasingly dated zoning code.  The majority of the 30 active plans, the oldest of which dates back to 1968, outline performance standards and other zoning requirements for the neighborhoods they encompass.

The Buffalo Green Code’s new form-based code - Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) - will eliminate the need for additional development controls contained in the city’s various URPs.  Maintaining 30 different plans that apply to 30 specific neighborhoods has added an unnecessary and confusing layer to the current development process.  Streamlining and simplifying rules and procedures is a goal of the new code.

The city is proposing to terminate all but one of its remaining URPs – the Homestead Urban Renewal Plan. In contrast to traditional government-driven urban renewal plans, the Homestead URP will take a market-based approach that closely considers residents’ needs.

The plan has two separate components: it allows someone to purchase a vacant city-owned home for $1, if they agree to fix it up and live in it; and it permits responsible homeowners to purchase an adjacent vacant city-owned lot for $1. The homestead program is targeted to select neighborhoods with markets that could benefit from this type of incentive, and has proven successful in attracting investment and encouraging property maintenance. The Homestead URP will include new boundaries reflecting the current needs of neighborhoods.

The other urban renewal plans will be terminated, and the standards contained in the UDO will be applied in their place.  This will help Buffalo turn the page on the urban renewal era, and make the zoning code easier to use and in line with today’s vision.

 

The diagram above illustrates the various components of the Green Code and how they relate to each other. Click here for a top-line description of each component.