BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- People living in the fruit belt are pushing back against gentrification. They are calling to create a community land trust to help control what gets built in the neighborhood and keep housing prices from skyrocketing.
“The land trust would prevent what I’m going through right now,” said Veronica Hemphill-Nichols, founder of the Fruit Belt/McCarley Gardens Housing Task Force.
She received a letter in the mail this week from her landlord PGT Holding Inc. that said her rent would be increased from $425 to $625 starting in October. It will go up about another $200 the following year.
“We will not raise your rent, that’s what they told me when they purchased it,” she said. “Where am I going to get this 200 dollars extra? I don’t know. I can’t go to my boss and say can you give me a raise, that’s not going to work.”
She makes $11/hour at her job and works 12 hours shifts. She’s lived in the house for 15 years.
“This is a perfect example of what we’ve been trying to say to the city and the medical campus about gentrification,” said Hemphill-Nichols.
To prevent the gentrification problem from worsening, she and a few community organizations, including Community Alliance First, want to see a community-run land trust created.
Right now, there’s a moratorium preventing the city from selling properties it owns in the Fruit Belt.
Community Alliance First explained they want 100 percent community control of those city-owned lots, through the land trust. It would be an independent non-profit.
“The land trust administers 99 year leases to developers to build on the land and that is a tool that the community can use to put certain conditions on the development,” said India Walton, with Community First Alliance.
Walton said it would also reduce speculation and stabilize housing prices.
“We also have the ability to request that developers keep a certain percentage of the housing that’s developed be affordable so people can remain in the neighborhood,” said Walton.
She also said because the community is responsible for the properties, it creates new opportunities in the neighborhood.
“I would call it a great opportunity to employ our children to cut those lawns and shovel those walkways, the opportunity to build capacity to train people to be leaders,” said Walton. “We have people who are willing to make this happen for us.”
Members of the public are invited to a meeting at the Moot Center on August 10 at 5:00 p.m. to learn more about the land trust.
Walton said the neighborhood won’t have any power if the land trust doesn’t become a reality and the moratorium preventing the city from selling Fruit Belt properties is lifted.
A city spokesperson told News 4 Mayor Byron Brown and Council President Darius Pridgen are working with members of the Fruit Belt to come up with a strategic plan to lift the moratorium.