BMHA Perry Choice Neighborhood Planning Initiative
The BMHA Perry Choice Neighborhood (PCN) planning initiative was a collaborative led by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) and the University at Buffalo Center for Urban Studies, as planning coordinator. The two-year planning initiative, funded by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhood planning grant awarded to the BMHA in 2011, seeks to transform the BMHA’s Commodore Perry Homes and Extension, and Buffalo’s Perry Choice Neighborhood, into a vibrant community of opportunity, which functions as a platform that enables residents to earn a living wage and that helps children do well in school, graduate on time, and go on to college and/or obtain a job with a meaningful career ladder.
The planning grant provide the UB Center with an opportunity to forge a plan based on the interplay between the built environment and the neighborhood superstructure. In the Choice plan, the three components—housing, neighborhoods and people—were actually surrogates for the built environment (housing and neighborhoods) and the superstructure (people). The driving idea was to develop a plan that improved significantly the built environment, while simultaneously reimagining and strengthening the organizations and institutions, including schools, hospitals, and social service agencies, that provides services for people and helped them solve socioeconomic problems. Concurrently, the strategy viewed the household as institutions and sought to build a supportive infrastructure that would nurture residents.
Work on the development of the Perry Choice plan give us considerable insight into the neighborhood development challenge in black neighborhoods. While the plan was strong on improving housing within the Commodore Perry Housing Development, it had no meaningful solution to dealing with housing in the surrounding neighborhood. The new builds simply would not stimulate the low-income rental market in the surrounding area. Also, the mixed-income, poverty reduction strategy was flawed. HUD was critical of the goal of building institutions to blend together the old and new populations and did not seem to understand the conflict that would occur between high- and low-income renters. So, while HUD sought to develop a project that would integrate public housing residents with the surrounding neighborhood and use public housing to trigger development throughout the community, its overall vision precluded that from happening.