Tackling the slumlord problem in the Queen City

Posted at 7:38 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 21:55:25-05

One look throughout some neighborhood in Buffalo, and you'll notice homes in desperate need of attention.

From Buffalo's Fruitbelt neighborhood, you can see signs of hope. From High Street, there is a direct view of new buildings and cranes in the sky adding to the recent development.

However, just blocks away from the Medical Campus, many houses sit vacant -- they are boarded up or falling apart.

"We are not just allowing people to come into our communities to grab cash and leave our communities devastated," said Council Member Darius Pridgen. "It's all about the revival of Buffalo.

Pridgen said that with all of the development and investment in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the number of slumlords in the nearby Fruitbelt is simply too high. He said that slumlords tend to be either landlords "not taking care of their properties in economically distressed areas, or in high developing areas where they just want to wait to get the cash later for selling the property."

Many of the owners, according to Pridgen, either simply bought the homes for quick cash or bought the properties in auction, but did not realize the commitment.

The Council Member added that, "a great number of absentee landlords don't live in western New York. Most of them don't live next door to their properties." A growing number, Pridgen added, come from outside of the United States.

Just minutes away in the city's east side, neighbors face a similar problem. Evangelist Sara Vickers Hopkins lives near a church that is crumbling. It used to be a source of pride and gathering of the neighborhood.

"It's not just frustrating, it's a safety hazard," Hopkins said now. "The bricks were falling."

"It's really a tearjerker when you see it," Hopkins continues. "If I could compare it to a person who is healthy one day, and not able to do anything for themselves the next."

The city has power to take action. It sends out housing inspectors to look at properties that residents call and complain about or that catch the attention of Council Members.

Council Members can also raise awareness about homes falling apart, hold hearings, declare resolution and even get subpoenas for owners.

However, the biggest power comes from the court.

Pridgen explained that Housing Judges in Buffalo have more lead way than in other cities.

"There's a law on the books for the last twenty years that gives them creative opportunities to correct infractions," Pridgen explained, adding that the city has begun working on a low-interest plan to get homeowners into some of the vacant properties in Buffalo.