It depends. When we look at one of the most common measurements of housing affordability – the percent of residents who spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs – we see a very different picture for our region’s homeowners versus our renters.
The numbers look good for Buffalo homeowners, with over three-fourths allocating less than 30 percent of their income to housing costs.1 In fact, Buffalo homeowners enjoy one of the lowest housing cost burdens in the nation as well as regionally; of the country’s 100 largest metro areas, Buffalo emerges as the 7th most affordable region for homeowners. However, the majority of renters experience a different reality- one more in line with national statistics; 50 percent of renters in the Buffalo-Niagara region are burdened by housing costs deemed unaffordable.2
Why this is important to moving One Region Forward
Affordable housing isn’t just about creating better homes for more residents; it is about building towards healthy communities. The stress of disproportionate housing costs often keeps people from investing the necessary time, energy and income to grow vibrant neighborhoods. Freed from this financial burden, families and individuals can afford to eat healthier, improve their educational opportunities, access better medical care and give back to their neighborhoods. Affordable housing is what helps communities live, earn, play, spend and grow.
What strategies can we adopt to increase housing affordability?
The Buffalo-Niagara region already has a good start on affordable housing, but many still need help in achieving home security. There are a number of strategies and local solutions the region can – and already has begun to – implement to increase the availability of affordable homes.
The revitalization process begins with the expansion of available sites for affordable home development; how do we use Buffalo’s vacant and empty spaces to create more opportunities for housing?
With our cold winters and very old housing stock, energy costs needed to heat and light our homes can be a major burden on families and households. How can we make homes throughout our diverse region more energy efficient?
Preserving the Region’s stock of historic buildings while reducing the bureaucratic process behind zoning and development policies will push our region ever-closer to housing affordability.
Lastly, we must engage and empower residents to purchase and retain affordable homes through promoting educational and counseling opportunities; the more we know about affordable housing as a community, the better prepared we are to create and sustain it.
Tell us what you think we should do to move our region’s housing and neighborhoods forward.
Your comments and suggestions will be forwarded to the One Region Forward Housing and Neighborhoods Working Stream and will be used to help shape the implementation strategies developed as part of that effort.
Data Source: US Census Bureau, 2010. American Community Survey 1-year estimate.
2. Housing affordability is not calculated for households listed as having “zero or negative income”. Therefore, these households were excluded from the calculation of the proportion of renters with affordable housing costs. Additionally, those rental households listed as having “No Cash Rent” (these are housing units likely owned by family or friends of the occupants who provide their tenants with housing free of charge) were counted as affordable housing units on the basis that, if one is not required to pay rent, their housing is affordable regardless of income.