Deplorable conditions at Perry Projects illustrate BMHA mismanagement

The Commodore Perry Projects are a pre-War depression-era public housing development in Buffalo’s Old First Ward. The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks. The agency was deemed “substandard” and HUD officials threatened a federal receivership within 90 days if sweeping turnaround plans were not produced.

Longtime critics of the agency have complained of mismanagement, patronage hiring, and incompetence at the agency. They say that the conditions at Commodore Perry are a visual illustration of the dysfunction — which they lay at the desk of Mayor Byron Brown, who appoints 5 of 7 commissioners who control the entity.

Vacancy rates at the Perry Projects (212 vacant units) and at AC Price Courts (170 vacant units) comprise the bulk of the authority’s unacceptable vacancy rate.

The property was being intentionally left vacant for many years because of a hoped-for federal grant that was rejected nearly two years ago. That grant envisioned using federal dollars to transform the property into a more mixed-use neighborhood. I’m told that it was denied because of shoddy grant writing that stated that diluting the concentration of African Americans was an objective of the project.

The current Executive Director Dawn Sanders-Garrett is under intense scrutiny. Her contract expires next month and several Commissioners are expected to oppose its renewal, following a scathing HUD evaluation that specially named management “substandard.”

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