6/26/2008

Undeliverable and Unbelievable - Unstoppable?

The latest data and maps from the HUD and US Postal Service mash-up arrived this afternoon from Anthony Armstrong over at LISC - Buffalo. He's been analyzing and synthesizing HUD and Postal Service data about "undeliverable addresses" - aka "vacant houses" - here in Buffalo for the past year. fixBuffalo readers may remember - Undeliverable, No one home... - from May 2007 and - Undeliverable or Unbelievable? - from October 2007. Today, fourth quarter data for 2007 hit my desk.

Today's numbers? No surprise. The trend here in Buffalo, NY? Things are getting a whole lot worse and neighborhoods that were once vibrant are hollowing out at an alarming rate. Click on the either map. The first one shows Buffalo at a glance today and the the second map shows the disturbing trend - change over time - for the past two years.

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Click here for the first map and here for the second
Anthony shared the following...

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. read the rest...

View the complete data set in this online spreadsheet, right here. The trend data has also been collected for the entire county and first ring suburbs - Tonawanda and Cheektowaga. An easy way to navigate this spread sheet is to find a census track in the first column and simply scroll over to the column "S" or "T" to see the two year changes. Simply staggering...

Both maps clearly show that Broadway/Fillmore and large sections of Masten are being swallowed up by the ever increasingly larger 'urban prairie'. Black Rock and Riverside are sliding, too. A fixBuffalo friend and I spent some time on Bailey Avenue recently observing the rapidly deteriorating urban landscape. There's a strong positive correlation here between our observations and the recent HUD/Postal Service data. It's simply staggering as people struggle to maintain their lives and dignity in neighborhoods that are hollowing out and where even a semblance of commercial and retail activity is slipping away.

If you still haven't seen LISC's Buffalo Tour - 2007, you should. Buffalo Rising's own Elena Buscarino interviews Michael Clarke and Anthony Armstrong in a short video that you won't want to miss.
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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are a couple of things going on with this data, IMO, some reflecting long term trends and others are new.

Old Trends:

1) Buffalo is still being depopulated. Thus the aggregate trend is still going to be down.
2) To understand Buffalo north of the First Ward, a simplified model is of two Buffalos. One is middle class, white and grouped about Delaware District. These three features are statistically speaking proxies for each other. The other is poor, east of main street and black. Again statistical proxies and not to be used for stereotyping. The first group is experiencing a high demand for older housing to be rehabbed, restored and maintained and a positive trend in pricing (one of the highest appreciation rates in America. No population loss there thanks to an enlightened middle class looking for city living. The second group, more of an underclass also has very enlightened home finders. More transient by nature, these movers are looking at University Heights, Bailey-Kensington and neighborhoods closer to downtown. The urban prarie is out as a desirable place to live. But housing values are going up much slower and equity building even in the newly favored east side.
New Trends:
3) Has anyone been on the Metrorail lately? Ridership must be up by 50%. Access to rail service is going to become a bigger consideration for homebuyers. Look for growth along the Main Street cooridor.
4) At some point Buffalo, which now has a strategic advantage in commuting and housing appreciation, is going to start attracting immigrants from less favorable cities.

-kevin

Anonymous said...

4:27, interesting analysis but your "two Buffalos" omits discussion of the declining part in the west and northwest.

Grant Street and west, and up through most of Black Rock and Riverside. The trend map shows bad kinds of red, maroon, and darker in those neighborhoods.

A drive down Niagara St between Fargo and Forest shows a great deal of empty buildings. Most of Grant Street would fit in with conditions of major East Side commercial streets. Residential streets starting a few blocks west of Richmond have a growing number of vacancies as well.

I suppose this is either a 3rd part of Buffalo, or a disconnected portion of the second part. But it's too big and fast growing to not be noticed.

Roy said...

Just wanted to add a personal perspective to this posting...

I understand that depopulation is an issue for the city, and Kevin's description is largely accurate.

My point of view is quite in opposition to his statement "The urban prarie is out as a desirable place to live". I've lived in fixbuffalo's neighborhood for 5 years now and my worry is how fast the Midtown area is developing. Smart commercial money is starting to come in. How long before desirable housing is hard to get near the metro-rail line?

Several people I have shown the neighborhood to have made moves on property only to find someone else jumping on it a hair quicker. I think there is a small but influential wave of opportunists like me who want open land and lower population density.

I disagree with the anonymous poster on two points. West of Grant street has nothing like the open land and many empty houses that exist on so much of the East Side. It may in the future, but not now. The lower "wester" West Side has not faced anything like the cultural bias that the East Side has faced for several generations.

The long term trends favor the city. Middle class white folks will have to learn to live around people with different looks, sounds and habits. A visit to Brooklyn shows the future. It's busy, dense and fun. There is a lot of work to do.

Anonymous said...

thanks for shedding some light on the situation with your last paragraph roy. I didnt know it was racism that lead whites to flee the city. Thats your implication isnt it? Im sure it has nothing to do with staggering increases in crime rates and plummeting property values. The Brooklyn you describe is in its first stages of gentrification.

Keith said...

"At some point Buffalo, which now has a strategic advantage in commuting and housing appreciation, is going to start attracting immigrants from less favorable cities."

People have been saying stuff like that for a long time. It isn't going to happen. Buffalo needs to get rid of this cargo cult mentality and instead make the best prairie it can.

PS-Roy, if the black areas of the city are the ones hollowing out, and the white areas gaining population, what is the basis for your implication that whites are leaving because they are racist?

Anonymous said...

"...I disagree with the anonymous poster on two points. West of Grant street has nothing like the open land and many empty houses that exist on so much of the East Side. It may in the future, but not now. The lower "wester" West Side has not faced anything like the cultural bias that the East Side has faced for several generations. ..."

Nobody said there was open land around Grant St and to the west to Niagara and northwest up through Riverside.

There's definitely a growning number of empty houses and empty commerical buildings. Indisputable for anyone who's been through those neighborhoods regularly over the past few years.

The trend map confirms this. Lots of red, magenta/purple, and even some maroon. Those colors all correspond to significant increases in undeliverable addresses.

As was said, it could be considered a "Third Buffalo", but the trend is much more like the East Side than the Delaware District.

Hamilton Word said...

These statistics and mapping are sort of interesting but arcane and somewhat unintelligible to the average person. Can someone distill the meaning of it all, and put together an analysis that the Bflo News, Artvoice, the NY Times etc can illustrate? Will the SUNYAB Institute for Regional Growth, LISC or the Anti-Flipping Taskforce take up the cause. Someone with credibility,capacity, insite, funding and vision needs to really do a micro-study on these emerging trends and then inform residents and policy makers as to what the reality is.