“After decades of decline, Buffalo boasts a ‘Refugee Renaissance.’ Can it last?” (Democrat and Chronicle, January 2022):
After reinventing itself as a haven for refugees, Buffalo seems poised for renewal. But with success comes higher rents.
Across the nation, the results of the 2020 census were the source of hand-wringing and political debate. But in Western New York, they were cause for unbridled celebration.
For the first time in 70 years, the city of Buffalo had grown.
The city’s modest 6% growth was trumpeted by officials as a pivotal triumph for a Rust Belt city that had become synonymous with loss. Hollowed out first by suburban flight and then the loss of manufacturing jobs, the onetime steel and iron powerhouse had hemorrhaged more than 50% of its population in the half-century since 1950. By the turn of the millennium, it also ranked among the most poverty-stricken in the nation.
The city’s turnaround came from a perhaps unlikely source: refugees from some of the most conflict-riven places in the world. After welcoming fewer immigrants than any city its size in the 2000 census, Buffalo has since re-imagined itself as a haven for new Americans from countries such as Myanmar (Burma), Somalia and Iraq.
Over the past two decades, more than a quarter of the refugees who came to the state of New York arrived in Buffalo’s Erie County, even as native Buffalonians continued to flee to greener economic pastures. Since 2002, more than 16,000 refugees have resettled in Buffalo.
Higher rents as the price of prosperity
West Side homes that used to sell for $40,000 might now go for hundreds of thousands, said Beehag at the International Institute, straining the resources of agencies trying to find housing for refugees who may need months to find jobs. To house the around 500 incoming Afghan evacuees, agencies are relying in part on churches and universities for short-term housing.
Poverty rates in Buffalo have barely budged even as other economic indicators trend upward — leaving both refugees and longtime residents alike in danger of displacement, according to a 2019 analysis led by Adelman.
What do impoverished refugees “from countries such as Myanmar (Burma), Somalia and Iraq [and Afghanistan]” need from taxpayers? “Buffalo Bills Strike Deal for Taxpayer-Funded $1.4 Billion Stadium” (New York Times, March 28, 2022):
New York State officials have reached a deal with the Buffalo Bills to use $850 million in public funds to help the team build a $1.4 billion stadium — the largest taxpayer contribution ever for a pro football facility.
Under the deal, the state would finance $600 million of the construction costs, while Erie County, where the stadium will be built adjacent to its current home, would cover $250 million. The remainder would be financed through a $200 million loan from the N.F.L. that was approved on Monday, plus $350 million from the team’s owners.
as Field of Schemes blogger Neil deMause parses in his detailed rundown of the stadium deal, the actual public subsidies probably exceed $1 billion—and that doesn’t account for things like interest payments on the borrowing that the state and county will likely have to do to finance the agreement. The fine print of Monday’s announcement, deMause notes, puts the public on the hook for $6 million annually for the next 30 years to fund upgrades to the stadium and another $6.6 million for the next 15 years to fund “maintenance and repair.” All told, that’s an extra $160 million in taxpayer funds pledged to the project beyond the $850 million price tag.
- “Sports, Jobs, & Taxes: Are New Stadiums Worth the Cost?” (classic 1997 paper from Brookings)
- “Sacking Taxpayers: How NFL Stadium Subsidies Waste Money And Fall Short On Their Promises Of Economic Development” (Heartland 2015): “Taxpayers funded more than half the construction cost of 12 stadiums from 1995-2013,” TPA says. “During that time, national median household income rose 0.3 percent across the United States, adjusted for inflation. In the dozen counties in which an NFL stadium was built using more than 50 percent public funds, however, median household income plummeted 5.7 percent during the same time. Twenty-six counties in America are home to an NFL stadium that received tax dollars between 1995 and 2013. In an astonishing 17 of those 26 counties, the median household income actually decreased in constant dollars after the stadium received public money for construction or renovation. Taxpayer-financed NFL stadiums didn’t just appear to decrease median income, they also apparently contributed to increasing the number of people living in poverty.”
- “NFL owners approve sale of Bills to Pegulas” (2014): That payment would be for $1.4 billion. (i.e., if we don’t adjust for inflation, the cost to taxpayers, who will get nothing in return, will in the same ballpark (so to speak), as the cost to the owners)
- “Celebrating Women’s History Month” (BuffaloBills.com), from a team that refuses to hire anyone identifying as a “woman” to be a player