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Working Families: Goals and Potential Community Strategies and Initiatives

Goal 1: Families in Erie County will have safe, affordable housing

The importance of safe, affordable housing cannot be understated. A home is not just a place where individuals and families start and end their day, but a foundation from which every-day people construct their lives, build their wealth, and conceive of their own personal American Dream. 

Increasingly however, rising rents and housing prices in the WNY housing market make finding affordable housing more difficult. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines affordable housing as the combined total of housing and utility costs that do not exceed 30% of an individual’s or family’s gross income per month.

In addition, much of the housing stock throughout WNY is quite old, leading to high concentrations in some zip codes of homes with lead hazards and children with lead poisoning. Lead from peeling and chipping paint puts young children at serious risk, negatively affecting their mental and physical development.

Potential Community Strategies and Initiatives
  1. Pass affordable housing policy for adaptive reuse projects receiving tax incentives at the Erie County Industrial Development Agency (ECIDA)
  2. Partner with the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation (BENLIC) on the rehabilitation of more owner-occupied affordable housing properties
  3. Increase federal Home Investment Partnership (HOME) funding from HUD to continue to build new units of affordable rental housing
  4. Educate municipal Planning Boards on strategies to increase affordable housing in their municipalities
  5. Explore the possibility of creating Limited Equity Cooperatives (LEC) to fund low interest mortgages and property tax reductions for the purpose of selling units in apartment buildings to low income households
  6. Explore increased weatherization opportunities for families using HEAP
  7. Remediate lead hazards in homes through the Department of Environment and Planning’s Housing Rehabilitation Program in Erie County’s Community Development Consortium areas and through the Erie County Health Department in the City of Buffalo.

Goal 2: Families in Erie County will have greater financial security

Financial security is an important social determinant of health and is essential if families are to thrive. Financial security is not just about earning enough money to pay for necessary expenses, but also enough to save for emergencies, education, and retirement.

Potential Community Strategies and Initiatives
  1. Work with the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and its members on “opt out” and other retirement saving initiatives for workers
  2. Explore strategies to grow the number of employers in Erie County offering paid sick leave to their low and moderate income employees
  3. Establish a Re-entry HUB or one-stop-shop for recently incarcerated individuals to find employment, housing, job training, and more
  4. Establish an Erie County Live Well Mobile Services Van to better connect residents throughout the county to county services

Goal 3: Families in Erie County will have access to quality, affordable childcare

High-quality child care is essential to enable parents to get and keep a job and to give children a strong start toward success in life. Readily available child care strengthens our economy. Unfortunately many families, particularly low-to middle wage families, lack access to high-quality child care that parents need to work and children need to grow and thrive. 

Despite the fact that Erie County receives approximately 25 million dollars in funding for childcare subsidies, families in Erie County still struggle to access high quality child care. This often places families in a compromised position of having to choose between accessible quality licensed child care and employment, or if available, utilizing family and friends or unlicensed child care providers.

Potential Community Strategies and Initiatives
  1. Increase awareness of available daycare subsidy programs (DSS low income subsidy, WDI).
  2. Collaborate with Child Care Resource Network and develop a checklist – easy to follow, step by step guide or requirements and timeline for becoming a childcare provider.
  3. Incentivize participation of Erie County childcare providers in QUALITYstarsNY (NY’s childcare Quality Rating and Improvement System)
  4. Work with Erie County GIS to plot existing child care centers throughout the county and then work with employers, healthcare providers, and schools to share information about the location of quality childcare and available options