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PUSHing for Development Without Displacement in Buffalo

PUSH (People United for Sustainable Housing), a long-time LISC partner, has made extraordinary gains in disinvested parts of Buffalo by developing green affordable housing, workforce programs, community cohesion and even a land bank. An article in Next City plumbs the group’s mission and inventive strategies to boost prosperity for residents while trying to prevent displacement. Over the past decade, LISC has invested nearly $12 million in grants and equity in PUSH projects.

The excerpt below is from:
Gentrification Can’t Be the Theme of Rust Belt City
by Danya Sherman, Next City

In Buffalo, organizers are fighting for development without displacement, parcel by parcel.

When Maxine Murphy moved to Buffalo’s West Side in 2006, she found a vibrant, diverse neighborhood. It was also full of vacant, abandoned houses; residents were struggling to find good jobs and keep up with rising weatherization costs to make it through the cold Buffalo winters. “I wanted to be part of the solution,” Murphy says.

Murphy quickly found out about a new organization called PUSH Buffalo (which stands for People United for Sustainable Housing) and started volunteering. She’s now president of its board of directors.

“I grew up in Greenville, Alabama,” Murphy reflects. “The black community got involved in civic activism because we had to, it was just what we did at home. It was a matter of life or death.”

Now, many residents of the east and west sides of Buffalo — two long-disinvested neighborhoods now feeling the squeeze of rising rents and property values — think that development in their city is a matter of life or death too.

I met Murphy at a West Side block party on a warm summer day. PUSH had set up a table as part of a new strategy for its community planning efforts this year. Instead of inviting everyone indoors for a long meeting, PUSH’s planning and organizing staff went door to door and showed up at three outdoor community-organized events, and talked to people over hot dogs and the sounds of pickup basketball about what they want to see in their neighborhood.

The responses varied. Many people wanted more playgrounds and positive spaces for youth. Other people spoke about wanting to see more community gardens and more jobs.

But across conversations PUSH has with West Side residents these days, one common theme often emerges: fear of displacement. Continued [+]...