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Urban Design Project and UB Regional Institute Report Shapes Local Policy on Senior Housing Development

Published January 29, 2014

A report by the Urban Design Project and UB Regional Institute in the School of Architecture and Planning is guiding major policy decisions regarding the development of senior housing in Erie County and how such projects are publicly subsidized.

The report was commissioned by the Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) of Erie County and the Town of Amherst to assess current and projected demand for senior rental housing and to better inform related economic development policy in the county.

Among the report’s key findings is that demand for market-rate housing in the county is relatively soft, contrary to long-held notions that senior citizens have been leaving Erie County due to a shortage of housing options. The county had been subsidizing such developments in an effort to keep seniors – and their spending power – within the county. However, the report found only a tiny proportion of seniors — one percent —migrate out of the county annually, and an even smaller fraction leave for reasons having to do with a lack of housing. 

The report by UDP/UBRI found that seniors aren't migrating out of the region due to housing shortages, a long-held notion that was driving the county to subsidize new senior housing developments.

Chief factors behind this include the overriding preference of seniors to age in place for as long as they can. For those seniors who are looking for rental options, they are more likely to find waiting lists for subsidized senior housing than they are for market-rate rentals across the county. Demand for market-rate housing isn’t projected to increase until 2030, according to the study. Also, Buffalo and its inner ring suburbs will see the greatest increase in demand, particularly for subsidized housing, rather than communities on the outskirts of the county.

The research raised enough questions around the need for tax breaks and other IDA subsidies of market-rate senior housing developments that the Town of Amherst imposed a moratorium on such projects last June. After the moratorium expired at the end of last year, the Amherst Industrial Development Agency adopted new guidelines that give preference to senior housing projects located in redevelopment zones and areas that serve lower-income residents. The guidelines also favor projects that adaptively reuse buildings, are accessible to public transportation and sit within walking distance of amenities.

The Town of Amherst guidelines will serve as a framework until Erie County concludes negotiations for a common policy for all Erie County IDAs.

Read recent media coverage of these policy decisions and the UDP/UBRI report: