GUEST COLUMN: Affordable housing summit brought community together to discuss important need

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By Mark Poloncarz

Earlier this month the 2022 Live Well Erie Affordable Housing Summit convened at the West Seneca Community Center in an attempt to identify and innovate strategies to expand affordable housing throughout all of Erie County. Elected officials and planning board members from 14 different municipalities, housing developers and representatives from various not-for-profit organizations from across Western New York discussed the possibility of expanding options for affordable housing.

I identified earlier this year the construction of new affordable housing as a countywide need as part of my 2022 State of the County Address and believe those who attended the affordable housing summit was part of our strategic process to bring together the vast experience and unique perspectives from throughout the county on affordable housing as we aim for a shared goal of expanding and enhancing affordable housing.

There were over five dozen attendees who participated in the approximately three-hour summit. The event included presentations, break-out sessions and an in-depth panel discussion. We all agreed to continue to work on this issue because it was agreed upon that affordable housing is something that actually impacts communities nationwide, not just here in Erie County. By coming together, we took the first few steps towards a more comprehensive approach to expand and enhance affordable housing options locally.

Erie County is set to receive over $3.4 million in federal Home Investment Partnership funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to be used in the county’s Community Development Consortium, which consists of 34 different municipalities. This money can be used by for-profit and non -profit developers in the form of grant funding for the construction of new units of affordable housing. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the 2020 U.S. Census, approximately 27 percent of Erie County households were identified as “housing cost burdened” and paying over 30 percent of their household income on rent or mortgage and for utilities. Additionally, it has been revealed that the average price for a home in the United States has increased over 30 percent since 2020 while the average monthly rent in the U.S. has increased over 20 percent.

Everyone deserves to have a safe and affordable place to live from which to build their own American dream. We are working collaboratively in Erie County to make that happen for everyone.

On a related note, I would like to remind everyone that the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning provides zero percent loans to low/medium-income homeowners to help with essential home repairs. To learn more information, including how to access an application, please visit