Regionalization and Access to Fair Housing in Erie County, NY

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This paper examines how political fragmentation in Erie County, NY, USA impacts the availability of affordable housing and economic opportunity for residents. In the post-World War II era, employment rapidly migrated to the suburbs, resulting in spatial disconnections between extant residential geographies of the principal City of Buffalo and older, inner-ring suburbs, and the emerging economic geographies of second- and outer-ring municipalities. Stated alternatively, the typical distance between workers and workplace steadily increased. As jobs suburbanized, affordable housing opportunities did not, leaving many low-income residents either isolated from new employment opportunities altogether or paying higher transportation costs for employment farther from their homes. Utilizing the 2020 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Access we explore what contributes to this condition, with a focus on how political fragmentation is a key factor. Erie County specifically, and metropolitan areas across the U.S., are characterized by multiple jurisdictions, each with its own regulations, policies, and politics influencing their approach to affordable housing and limiting its construction. This political fragmentation makes it difficult to coordinate meaningful regional action to ensure the provision of affordable housing in proximity to suburban employment opportunities. That difficulty is compounded by federal policies and programs requiring individual municipal grantees to conduct their own (local) fair housing planning, usually independently, which tends to reinforce existing jurisdictional divisions. Understanding factors that contribute to lack of affordable housing can contribute to more effective strategies to mitigate those barriers and improve connection between affordable housing and economic opportunity.

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Middle States Geographer

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