PUBLIC LAND FOR
PUBLIC BENEFIT CAMPAIGN
We believe that the City of Buffalo should use the vacant land it owns on behalf of the public to make the city more equitable through the creation of a new vacant lot disposition policy. And after this policy pitch was voted #1 in consecutive years on the 2022 and 2023 Community Agenda with Partnership for the Public Good, we know many of our partners believe this too!
While the City has long-evaluated repurposing ideas for its 8,000 vacant lots, the City continues to prioritize sale of these lots to developers. Buffalo’s “renaissance” has come at the cost of gentrification in some communities and disinvestment in others. At the same time, nonprofit agencies focused on community development have unsuccessfully tried to purchase lots for community benefit such as for community gardens. The City has largely maintained it cannot sell lots to nonprofit agencies under fair market value. With the recent reassessment of city lots, prices have skyrocketed and nonprofits, even when they try to purchase land, are effectively priced-out. Neighbors who are interested in purchasing lots for community use tell a similar story. A new land disposition policy will address these issues and create a more equitable use of land that recognizes the investment community members have already made and ensures public land is first and foremost for public benefit.
To see a summary of our findings and recommendations, click the link below for a PDF.
We are calling on the City of Buffalo to:
a. Work with residents, community groups, and nonprofit agencies to establish a comprehensive, neighborhood-led plan for publicly-owned vacant land within the city. This plan should permanently reserve up to 50 percent of city-owned vacant land for equitable, sustainable uses such as: green affordable housing, community gardens, passive green spaces for carbon sequestration, urban farming, green infrastructure, renewable energy, parks and recreation, walking and bicycling paths, and public art.
b. Create a policy for the free transfer of appropriate lots to non-profit agencies through a request for proposals (RFP) process.
c. Center neighborhood decision-making, especially as led by BIPOC community leaders on Buffalo’s east side whose neighborhoods have been most affected by land injustice, redlining and discrimination
In 2021, with the support of the Partnership for a Public Good and the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, we launched a Vacant Lot Working Group with block club leaders, affordable housing nonprofit partners, and Buffalo's green groups. Throughout 2021 and 2022, we have been gathering information from other cities, from the local community and from other key stakeholders about the possibilities for vacant lot reuse. We began co-hosting a series of vacant land reuse town hall meetings in the fall of 2022 and spring of 2023. All the information we've been gathering have been analyzed and presented as community-informed policy recommendations to the City of Buffalo.
If you would like to learn more about getting involved with this policy campaign or our land trust, please contact our Executive Director, Tim Chen, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 716-783-9653.
We'd like to thank Professor Jason Knight and his students at Buffalo State College for compiling this report for us in 2019-2020 on vacant lot reuse and Ashton O'Connor at Cornell University for his report on community garden sustainability across the country. We'd also like to thank Dr. Samina Raja and her team at the UB Food Lab for all of their program evaluation and support on this important issue for food sovereignty as well. Deep gratitude to Anthony Armstrong at Make Communities and the Land Trust Alliance for supporting our advocacy work as well.