Undeliverable..."No One Home..."

The folks at LISC - Buffalo have been doing the heavy lifting analyzing and synthesizing the growing amount of data and literature regarding abandonment and vacancy issues here in Buffalo, NY. A recent post - Shrinking Buffalo...Our Inconvenient Truth - has numerous links worth following to get you up to speed on the accelerating rate of decline.
Just got this from LISC - Buffalo...

In cooperation with HUD, the US Postal Service is now releasing quarterly data on vacant and undeliverable addresses by Census Tract. Where Buffalo and Erie County have been lacking a city-wide regularly updated primary data source on vacancy and abandonment rates, this data represents a powerful on-the-ground tool for tracking these trends at the neighborhood level.

This data does not represent structures, but separate mailing addresses. If there are two units in a house it would count as two addresses; if there are ten commercial offices in a single building, it would count as ten addresses. HUD has not yet been able to determine from its conversations with USPS how, if, or when PO Boxes are factored into this information.

The data that the USPS does collect represents chronic vacancy...read the rest...

A few attachments arrived with the email. Two data sets and two maps.

I've merged both data sets into two shared spreadsheets. The first data set - Buffalo USPS raw data 2006. The second set contains the equally disturbing trend data - Buffalo USPS trend data 2006. Here's the interpretive dictionary [.pdf] from HUD describing the various numbers.

The maps are available via my esnips and available for viewing and downloading. The first map shows the 2006 Trend Data and the second map, the first quarter 2007 vacancy by census tract.

A cursory analysis of this data reveals by the end of the first quarter of 2007 (Q1 2007) Buffalo had lost 1,692 deliverable addresses since Q1 2006, representing a decrease of 1.4% of the city’s total addresses. During that time, the total number of all addresses fell 527, from 137,292 to 136,765 for a decrease of .4%. After accounting for demolition activity, then, this translates to 1,162 more undeliverable addresses than last year at this time.

Do the math...100 addresses/month are disappearing from Buffalo. Even if all these addresses represent two-family houses, that's 10 houses/week that are vacated every week!

Last month, I posted - Ouch! - regarding population loss here in Buffalo, NY. One of criticisms involved in using census data is that some people claim that it's not reliable and we should wait for the 2010 data to filter down. But, folks...the Post Office! These people know how to count...and the numbers are real...

Question of course remains why we are not adopting the best practices that are emerging in places like Youngstown, OH...


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Anonymous said...

...accelerating rate of decline

In strictly popluation terms the 1.4% loss those guys are estimating doesn't look to me like much of an acceleration if we look at the past 40 years.


Per Wikipedia, the official Census figures are the following:
-13.1% (1960-70)
-22.7% (1970-80)
-8.3% (1980-90)
-10.8% (1990-2000)

Over 40 years, those average out to an annual loss of 1.37%, so 1.4% is as close as can be to an "average year" around here.

Looks like the losses slowed a bit during the Griffin years for whatever reason (but were still big losses even then), and picked up again under Tony, and from all appearances are continuing at a near average pace under Byron.

Honestly, I don't think any mayor could reverse this - it would require dictatorial powers that a mayor just doesn't have. The common council and state legislators, as well as the voters who elect them, would not approve the big changes that would be needed. And even by some far fetched chance the city became a much more desirable place to live, upstate NY is still emptying out at a fast rate due to it's long term weak job market and that won't be changing.

Then again, I don't think you're asking Byron to reverse it - just to deal with it better.

I agree he should try.

I wonder what exactly are you saying he should do, however? Even if he suddenly proposed a Youngstown type focus on landbanking (which even they have not really put into much action yet in Youngstown - they're mostly just talking and planning about it so far as I understand it)... even if Byron proposed that, I'd bet the outcry from neighborhoods to be landbanked would be huge and negative.

Still I agree that'd be the smartest approach of anything I've heard so far. Realistically I doubt we'll see even one politician around here ever propose it. Maybe if Youngstown or other cities really implement it (which remains to be seen) then a few politicians here would have something to point to.

Even without publicly embracing shrinkage that way, at least the city is acknowledging a few times recently the need for more demolitions (or "deconstructions", ideally). Problem is the city budget doesn't have much money for it. More state dollars needed. Maybe I'm the only one who'd like to see the whole Canal Project set aside, old plan, new plan, all plans, and just put those many millions of state money toward a lot of this right-sizing stuff. Sell all canal terminus land to the highest bidder , remove all subsidies and tax breaks, and in return the highest bidder can build whatever they want.

Anonymous said...

In case you were wondering, the Art Space neighborhood (where David tours every Saturday) is census tract 32.02.
Thanks for posting that data! Very interesting, and certainly more current than the census every 10 years...