PUSH Buffalo and other allies marched down Perry Street Wednesday, from the Commodore Perry low-income housing complex to the headquarters of the city’s economic development offices.
The half-mile route wasn’t random.
Marchers are demanding New York state provide more funding for public, affordable housing like the Perry Projects, and less funding for private, wealthy real estate developers who benefit from economic development boards housed at 95 Perry St.
“The decisions by the economic development boards in this building to give away public money as incentives to millionaires and billionaires are necessarily also decisions not to spend our money on public and social housing,” said Rob Galbraith of Public Accountability Initiative, standing inside the lobby of 95 Perry St. “We need to shift away from using our public money to increase profits for wealthy developers and start using it to rebuild our communities.”
The march was a precursor to PUSH Buffalo and other groups’ advocacy efforts for the new state Legislative session that begins in January.
It’s called the Housing Justice for All campaign, a coalition of 70 tenant and homeless organizations demanding state lawmakers invest more funding to improve affordable housing and eliminate certain tax subsidies for property developers.
Marchers noted development boards at 95 Perry St., like Empire State Development and the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, have dispersed large sums of public money and tax breaks to wealthy developers.
This includes $750 million for Elon Musk’s SolarCity Tesla plant, as well as $37 million in tax breaks for Terry Pegula’s Harborcenter.
“Our community has suffered where investors have pretty much run our government. We need to change that,” said Elizabeth McGriff, organizing coordinator for City-Wide Tenet Union of Rochester.
While state officials argue these investments spur job creation and economic growth, housing advocates argue they also spur gentrification.
Residents of the Perry Projects have long worried about the long-term future of their home, as the property has been eyed for a possible downtown stadium for the Buffalo Bills.
Linda Abernathy, who has lived at complex for almost her entire life and is a member of the Perry Projects For Life committee, said residents “feel defeated.”
“Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo gave all this money for these buildings, but right down the street is prime property,” she said. “Do they want low-income people living there?”
The Housing Justice for All Campaign is specifically asking the state Legislation to invest $3 billion every year in low-income housing.
The state is currently in the middle of a five-year plan to invest $20 billion to build or preserve 100,000 units of affordable housing. That plan recently funded most of a $25 million renovation for two Buffalo low-income senior housing complexes, Piotr Stadnitski Gardens and Riverview Manor.
The campaign is also asking the state Legislature to eliminate the 485-a and 421-a exemptions, which allow mixed-use properties with a residential space to pay reduced taxes for 12 years.
They’re also pushing for a state Senate bill, S.2892, and its corresponding Assembly bill A.5030, which prohibit eviction without good cause.
“They’ll try to raise your rent to force you out, or even when your lease does end, they don’t want to renew it. They can pull that on you and put you in a hell of a situation,” said Jim Anderson, vice president of Citizen Action of New York. “The bills will require them to go before a judge to show good cause.”
John Washington, co-organizing director for PUSH Buffalo, told marchers this is just the start of the group’s advocacy efforts.
“We’re going to have to go (to Albany) every month, we’re going to have to go for the budget hearings, we’re going to have to go for the Legislative session because last year what we won was a warning shot,” he said, “and now the real estate lobby is on notice.”