The Spatial Structure of Poverty and the Rise of an Underclass in Buffalo, New York

This initiative grew out of a commission that organized by the Buffalo Common Council to explore the reasons why poverty and an underclass were growing in Buffalo.  The UB Center won the contract to lead the work of the commission.  This work unfolded concurrent with work on the Black Buffalo Project. This caused the insight from project to influence the other.  The result was the development of two very complimentary initiative. The commission concluded poverty and an underclass was growing in the black community because of economic dislocations caused by the city’s changing economy. Most significantly, the commission concluded that poverty was not randomly distributed. It had a spatial dimension.  Poverty was rooted in the black neighborhood.  The commission concluded that a neighborhood-level community economic development strategy, which was linked to human service delivery, was needed to attack this issue.

The commission also discovered that an organizational mismatch existed in Buffalo. The view was that economic and neighborhood developments were paramount in the black community, but there were no organizations to attack these intertwined problems.  Thus, the commission, in partnership with the UB Center and UB Law School, transformed the commission into the Office of Urban Initiative (OUI), a 501C3 community economic development organization and housed it in the UB Center.  OUI became the first organization in Western New York that was focused exclusively on community economic development issues.