Wednesday, September 17, 2014

PUSH Buffalo, NY real estate, People United for Sustainable Housing



PUSH Buffalo leader on Earth mission to Paris

Maxine Murphy had never been overseas.
But on Friday, the board chairwoman of PUSH Buffalo has gone to Paris on a mission.
“We have a moral and spiritual obligation to take care of the Earth,” Murphy said Thursday.
Murphy will be the voice of low-income communities from Buffalo at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, which began Monday and runs until next Friday in Paris.
Murphy’s bags were packed Thursday in anticipation of her flight to France, where she is joining a special delegation of others from the organizations National Peoples Action, the Climate Justice Alliance and Grassroots Global Justice.
In Paris, they will advocate for disadvantaged and minority communities to make sure they have access to things such as solar energy, new jobs in the green sector and protection from inclement weather, and understand the importance of their environment.
“What we’re going to be talking about is, ‘What can we do – the grass-roots people – to affect change?’ ” Murphy said. “I am going to come back and tell the neighborhood that’s affected by it.
The conference has attracted delegates from 195 countries, including many national leaders, and they’re coming up with ways to arrest global warming caused by releases of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. President Obama addressed more than 100 world leaders there Monday.
PUSH members bade Murphy bon voyage from its buildings on Massachusetts Avenue.
“I can’t think of anyone better to represent Buffalo and our neighborhood at this pivotal time for our planet,” said Aaron Bartley, executive director of PUSH Buffalo. “Maxine has demonstrated a unique passion and steadfast dedication to issues of racial, economic and environmental justice.”


"We are the ones who need to be at the table when these decisions are made affection our children."
- Jennifer Mecozzi-Rivera, organizing director of PUSH Buffalo, on PUSH's opposition to charter schools, 10/15/2014



People United for Sustainable Housing, PUSH Buffalo, has announced that their Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization Company, in conjunction with Syracuse based Housing Visions, will develop 46 rental units aimed at Buffalo's West Side immigrant and refugee community at a cost of $11 million to be completed by August 2015.

Funding the project is the City of Buffalo, KeyBank, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and New York State Environmental Facilities Corp.

The project will renovate seven existing structures and build nine new structures.

The cost per unit is $239,130.  ($11,000,000 / 46)

PUSH has 27 employees.

-Based on a Buffalo News article by Mark Sommer on 6/3/2014



The Buffalo News 12/24/2012 front page above the fold print edition:

One of Buffalo’s most well-known housing organizations is preparing for its most ambitious project yet, with a goal of providing a warm, affordable place to live for dozens of lower-income West Side residents.

But as PUSH Buffalo beautifies a targeted 25-block area by buying up problem properties and making them attractive again, property values are on the rise, which makes pricing longtime residents out of the neighborhood a real risk.

“We’ve built these great houses, almost makes it look like we’re stepping on our own toes,” said Jen Mecozzi, PUSH’s director of community organizing. “Building affordable housing that people can live in and be safe and feel warm and not have to pay crazy bills – now we might be the reason other people can’t do that.”

PUSH’s mission is in its name – People United for Sustainable Housing – and the group is committed to helping people who already live on the West Side get into housing that is energy-efficient and affordable, while empowering people to create the neighborhoods they want, organizers said.

Ultimately, PUSH wants to make sure that people who have been living in the neighborhood can stay there, and the organization is building as affordably and sustainably as it can, said Jenifer Kaminsky, housing director of PUSH’s Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization Company.


The Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors last year reported that home values on the West Side had risen dramatically in the last decade.

“There’s nothing wrong with people making money off of real estate transactions, but our first concern is just regular working people in the neighborhood,” said Lonnie Barlow, a PUSH member and community resident.

As part of its $12.4 million Massachusetts Avenue Community Homes project, a much larger undertaking than anything it has done so far, PUSH is planning to build nine new structures and rehabilitate seven others. The project’s 46 new units will be rented to people who earn between 40 and 60 percent of the area’s median income, which is about $65,300.

[Median Price of Home Sales is $65,300.  Median hosehold income in 2010 was $27,869.  Thus, people who earn between 40 and 60 percent of the area's median income make between $11,476 and 16,721.] 

The sites are within the organization’s “Green Development Zone,” a 25-block area centered on Massachusetts Avenue and bounded by Niagara Street, West Delavan Avenue, Richmond Avenue and Vermont Street.

The one-, two- and three-bedroom units will rent from about $385 to $525, similar to the rents of PUSH’s 18 existing units. The new project includes one four-bedroom unit, and several units will be built to accommodate people with physical disabilities, including hearing and vision impairment.

PUSH has been buying up properties, such as 257 Massachusetts Ave., an imposing three-story structure with blond masonry, bay windows covered with boards, and concrete steps, which it purchased for $6,200 last year. In other cases, PUSH has reached development agreements with lot owners, such as the city.

The 26 parcels – some adjacent lots will be the site of a single new structure – were selected with community input. The neighborhood was canvassed, and residents were asked which properties they would like to see improved.

Part of the reason the scale of the project is so large is to accommodate as many people as possible, Mecozzi said, noting the growing interest in the neighborhood, which is causing property values to rise.

The project will be funded partly by the state’s Homes and Community Renewal agency, partly from bank loans, and PUSH is hoping to get some money from the city. PUSH will apply for state funding in January and hopes to get started on the work in the fall. Before all of the grant applications can be made, the project’s approvals from the city must be in place.

PUSH also purchased the long-shuttered Club Utica at the so-called “five points” intersection of Brayton, Rhode Island and West Utica streets.

Resident surveys showed a strong desire for retail businesses at the former country-western bar, so PUSH is planning a fresh-food market, stocked by the Massachusetts Avenue Project, which promotes urban farming, and a storefront for a new or expanding business. The rear of the first floor will be a community meeting space and property management offices, and the second floor will house apartments.

Demand for the apartment units is high, Kaminsky said. In the first month that PUSH started to market 11 new units this fall, more than 100 applications came in, and people continue to inquire at PUSH headquarters on Grant Street.

The changes in the last five years in the Grant-Lafayette area – located in PUSH’s Green Zone – have been evident, from the rise in property values to the addition of businesses to those that have been there for decades.


In addition to PUSH, Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Jericho Road Ministries, and Westside Ministries are some of the active organizations in the area.

Delores Powell, who lives on Massachusetts Avenue in a new home revealed on “Extreme Home Makeover” in 2009, credited her block’s transformation to PUSH’s slow and steady progress, but also to the reality show experience, which also improved properties around her own.

“There was a lot of violence, and all of that has changed,” Powell said, noting that the corner of Massachusetts and Normal avenues was particularly dangerous.

The city demolished problem properties around her in 2009, which drove away drug users and other criminals, Powell said.

PUSH encouraged people to take pride in their neighborhood and also gave them a voice, she said.

The neighborhood remains a work in progress. PUSH’s surveys found that residents desire more health care providers, and Mecozzi said differences between classes – the neighborhood is a destination for many immigrant communities – has prevented certain groups from patronizing certain stores.

“Our goal is to get people to stay in the same lane and hang out together,” she said.

At a Planning Board meeting in November, three of PUSH’s neighbors spoke in favor of the project, though real estate broker David Weitzel said that, while he liked what PUSH is doing, there needs to be more opportunities for homeownership.

The concern that the neighborhood’s success is drawing new interest and causing property values to rise is a good problem to have, but one that must be addressed, said Henry Louis Taylor Jr., director of the Center for Urban Studies and a School of Architecture and Planning professor at the University at Buffalo. “We’ve been waiting for a long time for this problem to reach the shores of Buffalo,” Taylor said.

As a way to keep neighborhoods affordable, Taylor suggested establishing land banks, which PUSH has done to address rising property values, or levying property taxes based on income.

“The challenge of PUSH is to create a community that will not push people out,” he said.



Based on Buffalo News article by Jill Terreri

PUSH Buffalo (People United for Sustainable Housing) received $1.7 million to rehabilitate three properties assessed at a combined value of $90,000.

The three houses have a total of eleven apartments which will be rented for between $375-500 per month.

The three properties are located at 397, 398 and 460 Massachusetts Ave. and are worth $15,000, $20,000 and  $55,000 respectively.
The houses are owned by Massachusetts Avenue Housing.

The $1,700,000 was funded by:
State Division of Homes and Community Renewal
City of Buffalo
Federal Home Loan Bank

$567,000 per house
$155,000 per apartment

Montanez, 35, moved with her sons, Rakhim, 18, and Zaindre, 15, a couple of weeks ago into an affordable-rate apartment on the West Side recently rehabilitated by PUSH Buffalo. With only a love seat and TV set in the virtually empty home as the holidays approach, the family has a desperate need for the basics.  Rakhim usually stays with an aunt, because there he can sleep on a box spring.  Her two daughters, Jakayla, 11, and Ky’asia, 9, live with their father and stay with her on the weekends.  Montanez must make do with $800 a month in Social Security Disability, plus $400 a month in food stamps that resumed this week, now that she has a permanent address.  She also works at Goodwill, but the piecework pays her less than minimum wage, she said.  Nor do the boys’ fathers help – one is incarcerated, while the other is not involved with the family, Montanez said.




PUSH Buffalo receives public money and tax-free profits...
Concerned citizens want to see the accounting of where that PUSH money goes.



PUSH Buffalo and HomeFront are trumpeting the "green restoration" of a house on Buffalo's west side. The house is owned by PUSH (People United for Sustainable Housing) and has an assessed value of $40,000. PUSH and HomeFront have secured $163,000 from the New York State Homes and Community Renewal's Urban Initiative Program to replace the roof, remove asbestos, replace insulation, and landscape the property...
Again: PUSH is receiving $163,000 of tax payer money to fix up a $40,000 house that they own and pay zero taxes on...
Once again: $163,000 of NYS tax revenue is being spent on a $40,000 house that PUSH owns tax free...