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Erie County spending big to invest at home

Buffalo Next

Raising the standard of living

Erie County said it has invested more than $7 million in the last five years to help nearly 400 low- and moderate-income homeowners countywide with essential repairs and renovations to their homes.

Designed to eliminate substandard living conditions and extend the life of homes, the county’s Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program offers no-interest loans of up to $15,000 to eligible homeowners of owner-occupied single and two-family houses in 34 municipalities across Erie County, mostly outside Buffalo and its first suburbs.

Typical repairs include roofs, energy conservation, siding and upgrading of mechanical systems including plumbing, heating and electrical, as well as work to make homes handicapped-accessible. If a home was built prior to 1978, it must also be assessed for lead-based paint hazards, and remediated if needed by certified contractors. To date, more than 391 projects have received $7 million in loans.

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To be eligible, homeowners must have adequate property insurance and flood coverage, if appropriate, and household incomes below 80% of the area median income. Maximum household incomes range from $49,120 for a single person to $92,640 for a household with eight or more people. Property taxes must be current.

The deferred but repayable loans are funded through Community Development Block Grant and Home Investment Partnership Program dollars.

Under the program, loans are held as liens on the property, with each homeowner paying nothing for the completed work at the time, but repaying the loan back later, usually when the property is sold. The county then gets the money back, and adds it to its annual rehab allocation from the federal government.

Eligible communities in the Erie County Consortium include the villages of Alden, Gowanda, Akron, Lancaster, Angola, North Collins, Depew, Orchard Park, East Aurora, Springville and Farnham; the towns of Alden, Grand Island, Aurora, Holland, Boston, Lancaster, Brant, Marilla, Clarence, Newstead, Colden, North Collins, Collins, Orchard Park, Concord, Sardinia, Eden, Wales, Elma, West Seneca and Evans; and the cities of Lackawanna and Tonawanda.

Buffalo, Amherst, Cheektowaga, Hamburg and the Town of Tonawanda are not members of the consortium, and receive direct funding from the federal government for projects within their borders.

Want to know more? Three stories to catch you up:

• Residents invited to forums on federal block grant funds

• County panel backs 13 infrastructure projects for U.S. funding

• Municipal projects chosen for block grant application

Welcome to Buffalo Next. This newsletter from The Buffalo News will bring you the latest coverage on the changing Buffalo Niagara economy – from real estate to health care to startups. Read more at BuffaloNext.com.


What: Niagara University has teamed up with Montante Solar to construct a 4-megawatt solar array on its Lewiston campus, generating renewable power for the university once it is operational in October 2023.

Tell me more: The project is designed to convert 17 acres of vacant land near the Witmer Road entrance to the campus into a solar farm, with post-mounted panels that will follow the path of the sun during the day to maximize power generation from both direct and indirect sunlight. Plans also call for replacing invasive plant species now found there with native plants.

Why it matters: The venture is part of the university’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality and protect the environment.

Niagara has planted hundreds of trees on campus, uses solar panels and live plants on roofs, installed four electric-car charging stations on campus and converted to LED lighting throughout the campus to cut electric consumption by half. It also built a 50,000-square-foot integrated science center that is “gold” certified under the LEED environmental standards.


West Seneca insurance agency Aebly & Associates is starting construction of its headquarters by Picone Construction, using the 1.2-acre site of a former Sunoco gas station at the prominent northeastern corner of Union and Center roads for a two-story professional office building designed by Carmina Wood Design.

Owner Julius W. Aebly Jr. wants to consolidate two cramped offices with 3,500 square feet at 3638 and 3640 Seneca St. into a 6,160-square-foot state-of-the-art facility with a rooftop patio at the northern portion of the new location at 1471 Union, which also includes 1465-1471 Union, 798 Center and 150 Fremont Ave. A vacant commercial structure and a single-family home on the property will be torn down.

The insurance and investments firm – which was founded in 1913 and formerly known as the Walsh-Jones Agency and Walsh Group – offers auto, home and life insurance for people, as well as commercial property, liability, workers compensation, employee benefits and other employer-based insurance for employers.

It acquired the former gas station and home of Affordable Limousine in 2020, tried to develop it into a new Royal Car Wash location, before deciding instead to use it for its own needs.

The firm already obtained town approvals, as well as more than $187,000 in tax breaks from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. A second building is also planned, to house future office, retail or restaurant space.


Catch up on the latest news from the Buffalo Niagara economy:

Cost vs. benefits: That’s the trade-off at the center of the state’s proposed climate change plan.

A tight labor market is keeping the Buffalo Niagara region’s unemployment rate low.

This is crunch time for Amazon’s local distribution centers.

A South Buffalo pot farm will be able to grow a lot of legal marijuana once it opens, with an estimated value of $19 million a year.

David Balkin is out as president of SUNY – Erie Community College following a probe into an alleged altercation with a staff member.

Plans to make big changes to how New Yorkers heat their homes were backed by a state-appointed council as part of a sweeping plan to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

M&T Bank is selling a portion of its Wilmington Trust business.

A Buffalo contractor has a plan to build 40 apartments and retail space near the intersection of Elmwood Avenue and West Tupper Street.

Douglas Jemal has scooped up another highly visible downtown Buffalo property.

Catholic Health may not have a deal with Highmark, but it has one with Independent Health.

Athenex, the struggling drug development company, is getting out of the compounding business that makes up almost 20% of its sales, costing jobs at its Clarence site.

After a video went viral, the state Health Department is looking into staffing levels at an Erie County Medical Center psychiatric unit.

Buffalo Niagara businesses keep hiring slowly, but there are some concerning signs on the horizon.

An Invest Buffalo Niagara report takes stock of the region’s workforce.

Officials from Oishei Children’s Hospital are hoping Gov. Kathy Hochul approves their designation as a safety net hospital.

D’Youville University is planning to expand its health care programs with a $50 million building project.


Five reads from Buffalo Next:

1. Inside 43North company Big Wheelbarrow’s decision to stay in Buffalo: Since Big Wheelbarrow moved from Austin, Texas, to Buffalo in January 2022, the company has facilitated more than $3 million in local food transactions on their platform.

2. The Bills make me want to shop: How Buffalo Bills merchandise is some of the hottest local gift items this holiday season.

3. How will Western New York’s higher education institutions recover from Covid-19? Enrollment at some local schools is holding up, but others are struggling to attract students.

4. New life for old stones: How a Buffalo company is finding new uses for old bricks and stones in construction projects.

5. Big changes are being proposed for the state’s energy markets, and it could change the way residents heat their homes and cook their food in the years to come.

The Buffalo Next team gives you the big picture on the region’s economic revitalization. Buying a building? Redeveloping a property? got a tip? Reach Real Estate & Development reporter Jonathan D. Epstein at 716-849-4478 or email him at jepstein@buffnews.com.

Email tips to buffalonext@buffnews.com.

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