More Subsidized Housing on the way; Is it a Blessing, or a Curse?

In Niagara Falls

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Another day, another scheme to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on low rent housing in a city already so vacant that private landlords are just giving up.

You can’t throw a rock around here and not hit some politically connected insider with a yen to house the downtrodden and walk away with a nice piece of change in the bargain.

Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, pastor at True Bethel Baptist Church and president of the Buffalo Common Council, is the brains behind this particular, um, “development.”

The former Sacred Heart Catholic Church on South Avenue and its elementary school became True Bethel’s Niagara Falls campus about six years ago.

The plan for True Bethel Gardens, the project’s name, calls for converting the two-story school into 30 apartments. Twenty of the 30 units would have one bedroom, and the rest two or three bedrooms.

“We’re still working on confirming the financing,” True Bethel spokesperson Janice McKinnie told the Buffalo News. The developer anticipates some state funding, she added.

The Niagara Falls Zoning Board of Appeals granted variances to the church Tuesday for parking on the property. The parking spaces now assigned to the church would be made available to the tenants of the apartments.

“We are looking to make sure that people in the low- to moderate-income (brackets) are able to rent these apartments,” Ms. McKinnie said. “They are not designated for any particular population.”

The church-owned True Community Development Corp. is already heavily involved in government subsidized housing. It operates two housing projects near its main church on East Ferry Street in Buffalo comprising 30 townhouses and 50 units of senior housing. It’s also building single-family homes on East Ferry, Ms. McKinnie said. The corporation previously built three single-family homes on Woodlawn Avenue in Buffalo.

“I get sick of people saying, you know, well it’s never been done here,” remarked Rev. Darius Pridgen on a self-produced video promoting his Affordable Rent and Housing (ARH) program.

The question is why Niagara Falls, already up to its ears in “low to moderate” government subsidized housing, as well as hundreds of Section 8 qualified units offered by private landlords, needs any more.

One thing is for certain.

The time when a developer steps forward to build a luxury condominium development here, or even proposes to build a single home priced at over $100,000, may be more than a lifetime away.

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