Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Buffalo’s Air Date

The Buffalo Edition of Extreme Makeover will air on ABC on January 24th as a two-hour special, from 8 to 10PM.

The show, normally one hour long, is being extended to highlight the improvements that were made in the West Side neighborhood around the subject of the show, the demolition and rebuilding of the home of Delores Powell.
There’s a “Stone Soup” quality to this story.  Yes, we welcomed the out-of-towners with their high ideals (bless them), but we can be glad and proud that a lot of what the rest of the nation will see is Buffalonians, pulling together to do what we always could in the first place.  Let’s hope we’ve learned that we always had the way and the means, the will and the sweat equity – through the City, ReUse, Push Buffalo, AmeriCorps, and so on.
Let’s do more of this, even when the cameras aren’t rolling.
Image: Joe Cascio

About the author  ⁄ Elena Cala Buscarino

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36 comments
jimmy
jimmy

True, but the contention was over the income requirements for benefits, not where they lived. A family living on their own has a larger burden to shoulder during the winter than someone living off Belmont or BMHA. There are services available to a family of four earning up to $46,xxx a year. Granted, many of these are emergency aide, grants, or partial assistance, but the assistance is still provided to those who are above the lowest end of the middle class.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

The majority of the poor in Buffalo do not live in housing provided by BMHA. Most live in old houses that are generally not energy efficent resulting in high utility costs. The programs available to a household of four making more than 26-28K are limited and many of the the working poor hover in and out of this range.

I am not citing any study here but this has been my experience as a lifelong resident, neighbor, and at one time landlord here in Black Rock.

jimmy
jimmy

BMHA requirements for services:

How low is "low-income?" What are the income limits?

One person $ 32,650

Two persons 37,300

Three persons 42,000

Four persons 46,650

Five persons 50,400

Six persons 54,100

HEAP requirements for services:

One Person: $2,030 p/m ($24,360 p/y)

Two Persons: $2,654 p/m ($31,848 p/y)

Three Persons: $3,279 p/m ($39,348 p/y)

Four Persons: $3,903 p/m ($46,836p/y)

Medicaid and some SSI:

One Person: $13,800 p/y

Two Persons: $21,800 p/y

Three Persons: $25,125 p/y

Four Persons: $28,190 p/y

Food Stamps:

Family Size

1 $ 1,174 (month) $ 14,088 (year)

2 $ 1,579 (month) $ 18,948 (year)

3 $ 1,984 (month) $ 23,808 (year)

4 $ 2,389 (month) $ 28,668 (year)

A person who qualifies for support from SSI, Medicaid, food stamps, etc; may request emergency and longer term assistance for payment of utility services. Payment is based on income eligibility, need and duress. Covered services, according to the NYS OTDA and NYS DSS, include Fuel (not covered by HEAP), Electricity, Cable Television, Telephone Service, Cellular Telephone Service (if determined to be an essential need), and any other utility provided to the home. Internet services are not eligible for emergency and longer term assistance. Emergency assistance will not exceed four months for a given calendar year and may not overlap with other emergency assistance programs.

Does that help?

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

I believe you are mistaken, the only programs a familiy of 3 earning $42K might qualify for would be HEAP and possibly food stamps. I am not aware of any subsidies for cable.

jimmy
jimmy

One thing to keep in mind. A family of three in Buffalo qualifies for full public assistance if they earn under $42,000 per year. This means that they receive subsidies for housing, food, utilities, cable, and phone. The same family earning less than $64,280 per year will qualify for a portion of these benefits, without determining need (beyond the income requirement).

jimmy
jimmy

All true, but this is the amount allocated in the federal budget for Health and Human Services, the current leading expense that taxpayers fund.

FYI, 2.7% of the US GDP for 2009 is approximately $373 Billion. The GDP for 2009 is projected to be approximately $13.85T. That is if the 2.7% figure is correct.

Here are the Federal Outlays as percentages of GDP (2009), according to the following website: http://tinyurl.com/yfgn9tt

Social Security: 4.164% of GDP

Medicare: 2.872% of GDP

Veterans Affairs: .0503% of GDP

Department of Defense: 3.314% of GDP

Health: 2.232% of GDP

Income Security: 2.529% of GDP

Interest payments on debt: 2.035% of GDP

Granted, some of these expenses are not going directly into the pockets of the poor, but much of it is through a combination of expenditures.

The original assertion by you was that we should "return(ing) to the income tax rates that were in place in the 50's and 60's. I stated that we should work on controlling spending if we wanted to lower income taxes. As stated above, we spend a great deal of our money on health and human services, much more than $.075 per tax dollar, as you would claim. If this was the case, then our top expenditures would drop well below the 1% of GDP.

Now you have the federal budgeted expenses for Human Services, and the proportion of GDP spent on each. Would you like me to break these figures down another way to show you that we are spending a great deal of our tax dollars on human services, and a relatively large portion is going to provide services for the poor (including the elderly in nursing homes).

jimmy
jimmy

Some would see these indicators as an increase in discretionary income by the middle class. There are far more people who own multiple properties today than in the 60s and 70s. There are more middle class who own boats, and often large boats, they own large RVs, second homes at the lake or in the woods. You do not have to be super wealthy to buy one of these homes, in fact the average middle class person nearing retirement probably has the means to buy one or several of these things.

My friend's dad worked as a line manager at GM for 30 years. He retired with a full pension, receives social security and other benefits, and now has enough discretionary income to purchase a second home in Sanibel Florida and a cottage on one of the Finger Lakes. In years past they would have rented a house in Florida and the cottage on the lake, now they own these places, and that keeps others from renting.

I would not describe this family as upper class, they are just over the border of upper-middle class. This is the trend in society. How many people of your age group do you know who have a second house or getaway someplace? How many of these are in the price range of the average house in Buffalo?

I think we may have an issue with definitions, perhaps any family earning under $49,000 p/y (living wage for family of four) is poor to you, and any family earning over $90,000 p/y (definition of wealthy according to Barbara Ehrenrich) is rich. I guess if we only have this $41K spread to define the middle class, then I can see how it is shrinking and how the rich are getting richer.

I used the definitions provided by the US Census department and the Department of Social Services.

jimmy
jimmy

I don't disagree at all, but you also have to keep in mind that our standards of living have increased considerably in that time as well. Families now pay for cable tv, multiple cell phones, they often have more than one car, a couple of televisions and multiple appliances in the kitchen. The size of the average house has grown considerably, and so have the expenses for the average family. Just look at the average family debt in 1975, less than $200.00, to today, about $7,200. Even with adjustments for inflation, the increase is staggering.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

The 790B you cite spent on social services is a poor indicator of money "going to the poor and less fortunate". Medicaid and Medicare payments to nursing homes and to cover health costs of the elderly makes up a large percentage of those dollars.

The combined cost of Medicaid, AFDC, food stamps, SSI, WIC, Veterans benefits, and foster care consumes about 2.7% of GDP. This works out to about 7.5 cents of each tax dollar costing a taxpayer making 50K about $465/year. We are not really spending much to alleviate the problems of the poor.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

The idea that 25K household income is middle class is not realistic. 25K would be tough going even for a single person let alone a family. I believe you would agree that defining where the line should be is difficult.

I know the data out there can help us sort things out but I put more stock in my own observations and experience. Statistics can be manipulated or more often not take into account the many variables inherent in the human condition.

For a good example of how working people have lost ground we can look to the marinas here in Black Rock. In the 60's and 70's most of the boats docked here were small runabouts owned by local people. There were a few cabin cuisers and even a couple of yachts but overall these marinas served the average joe. Beginning in the 80's those small boats were displaced by larger and larger craft. Soon few locals were able to afford the increased cost. Then the marinas began to fence off the docks from the local people that had used this waterfront for generations.

Another example would be the summer cottages at places like Lime Lake or Long Beach. When I was a kid we often rented one of the small rustic cottages as did many of my neighbors. Today most are gone, replaced by high end summer homes available only to a fortunate few.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Good point, A typical couple today must each work 40+ hours to maintain the same standard of living that one wage earner once provided.

Roy
Roy

The middle class today most often includes households that have more than one wage earner and more than one full-time job. This differs vastly from just twenty years ago and serves to mask the loss of real income as compared to the increased cost of living in that time. Our working middle and lower classes are subject to the loss of family time that was gained in the mid 2oth century, and now placed into very long work weeks. This also pushes people from "working in the low wage/high hours system" to "working the welfare/unemployment system".

We also have a marked loss of employer-based health care and pension and subsequent reliance on public medicaid/medicare for both the housing and health care of our elderly.

The socio-economic factors affecting one's ability and motivation to earn a living are complex and require close study. In Buffalo, attention to this should come from our Ivory Towers (UB Regional Institute for one) and generate policy by the applying govt entities (ECIDAs, BERCs, City and County and State Economic Development groups).

This is where our government and policy leadership has failed, miserably.

The Kettle
The Kettle

Very insightful on blogs and am radio. (no joke)

jimmy
jimmy

The overwhelming majority of Americans are classified as middle class, by definition this is a family who earns roughly between $25k - $100k per year. The sub-classifications of middle class may be your sticking point though. By definition, the middle class is the group that does not occupy either of the two classes (upper or lower), but within the middle class definition there exist several sub-categories that change in percentage over time.

I will try to keep this brief, given the lengthy post above. Nearly half of all Americans occupy the middle half of the income curve, those earning roughly $25,000 - $78,000 per year (2009 figures). According to a recent US Census report, "over the past two decades, the number of households in the $25k - $75k bracket decreased by 3.9%, from 48.2% to 44.3%. During the same time period, the number of households with incomes below $25,000 decreased 3.5%, from 28.7% to 25.2%, while the number of households with incomes above $75,000 increased over 7%, from 23.2% to 30.4%. This report, and the other reports built off this data indicate that there is still an upward mobility trend in the middle class, with about 9% of middle class moving from the $25k-$75k bracket to the over $75k bracket from 2000 - 2009. This is slightly offset by those moving from the middle class to the upper class, and a small percentage (less than 1%) moving from the middle class to the poverty class. Currently, less than 12% of Americans are considered to be living in poverty, while only 5% of Americans are considered to be the upper class. The remainder earn between $14,751 per year and $120,000 per year. Only about 1% of the upper class are considered the wealthiest of Americans, and only about 2% of the poor are considered to be living in true poverty conditions. The rest occupy a spectrum of differences between the two.

I don't see a huge difference between the wealthiest local residents who built mansions along Delaware at the turn of the century, or those who build an estate in Clarence in the 1970s. During the 1950s people were building houses on the east side and in the first ring suburbs. There was still as much of a divide in wealth and class as exists today, if not more of a divide between the highest and the lowest. In 1955, according to US census projections, the highest earners occupied about 4% of the total population, and the lowest occupied about 8.5% of the total population. This proportion has changed over time, with the highest dropping to 2.8% by 1971 and the lowest representing about 3.9% of the population. The trends have almost gone in straight lines since then. In most cases the percentage of very rich and very poor are getting smaller as we move towards the middle.

If you want to see some of the extravagant homes built in the 1950s and 1960s, take a look along the side streets off Main Street in Snyder and Williamsville. Look in sections of Clarence, Hamburg, Tonawanda, and the other suburbs. They all have a wealthy area that blossomed around that time. At the same time there were many neighborhoods in Buffalo that developed as upper-middle or middle-middle class houses that were much larger than the average house at the time. Keep in mind, that the average new build in 1950 was less than 1,000 sqft, today the average new build is around 1,500 sqft (for the average house). The extravagant houses have gone up at about double that rate, with some of the high end houses in 1950s built at 2,500 - 3,000 sqft. Today extravagant houses are in excess of 4,000 sqft.

The notion that the middle class is shrinking is controversial because the economic boundaries that define the middle class vary. Households that earn between $25,000 and $75,000 represent approximately the middle half of the income distribution tables provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Very good post, we can find common ground in many areas. I too support the living wage and find it sad that a full time worker can be paid 10 or 12 bucks an hour here in WNY. The study you cited seems pretty reasonble, I think most would choose to become part of the middle class if given more opportunity. There are many on welfare that do not have the skills or earning capacity to survive and it is true that they lanquish on welfare as a result. A low paying job with crappy benefits just doesn't pay the bills.

I disagree with your take on the middle class. The mansions on Delaware or Nottingham were built around turn of the century, not in the 50's or 60's as was my exanple of a more equitable time. I don't know of many extravagent homes built in this period, it was a time of great expansion of the middle class and most homes were more modest. Those at the top have put great distance between themselves and those at the bottom, both geographically and in the amount of wealth they hold. I am old enough to remember when that was not the case and our society was better for it.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

You are probably right that blogs provide an outlet for some to vent and release some of their anger.

I don't agree that the city and poor haters are just a few loudmouths. I realize the majority of people are not blatantly racist or out to attack the poor but there is a quiet undercurrent of derision that comes from ignorance. Lack of exposure to the poor on a personal level allows the same old stereotypes to be repeated and believed. There is very little incentive to address the problem as long as those with the means are able to isolate themselves from the less fortunate.

jimmy
jimmy

I apologize for the book, I should have previewed it before posting. Happy New Year!

Art
Art

I was just watching the news and noticed that someone was killed right down the street from this house. You can put a nice house in the hood, but you cannot take the crime out of the hood no matter what you do.

jimmy
jimmy

I can't explain the attacks on the Powell's anymore than I can explain the ignorant racist comments that permeate other blogs and message boards. I can't explain domestic abuse, rape, pedophilia or teenage suicide, but they still exist. There is reasoning and justification behind all of these things, but the thinking and actions are flawed. I try not to paint everyone with the same broad brush. A few ignorant bulletheads posting hateful comments does not mean that the entire area is aligned against the poor, anymore than a few ignorant racist comments in the Buffalo News blogs means the entire area hates blacks and muslims.

People need an outlet for their anxiety and fears sometimes. It used to be socially acceptable for someone to fire off their thoughts in public without an ounce of shame. Those days are gone and some people have found the internet and AM radio as their forum for release. In many ways this is a good thing, because it does allow for the discussion of topics that would be considered taboo in general conversation. A person can rant about his or her feelings and emotions anonymously, without fear of retribution. The release of this anger in words is probably much better than the release of this anger in actions. I would rather someone share their ignorance anonymously online than to try to go after the Powells or someone else. The rest of the people on this blog are keeping someone like Warehousedweller in check and honest. That person entered the room, spewed his/her bile, then left without another word. They got the reaction, they feel good about themselves, and this is hopefully the end of the story for them. We may not like what that person has to say, but as they say on the east side 'been done'.

jimmy
jimmy

I agree with the living wage, but I also know that the living wage and middle class living are going to be hard to come by for the uneducated.

Take a look down Delaware Avenue or Nottingham Terrace and you will see the Spaulding Lake of yesteryear. We had rich and we had significant divisions in wealth during the years that you pine for.

As far as income tax returning to normal levels, well we would need to drive responsible government spending first. We would need reform in the amount we spend on social services programs (about $790B in 2009) and social security programs (about $730B in 2009). Military spending is the next largest expenditure at $680B; however the amount we spend on interest payments on our debt (Department of Treasury) is expected to exceed $700B in 2009, and may reach as high as $750B in 2010. These are the largest areas of government spending, you would think that with $790B going to the poor and less fortunate, we wouldn't be having this conversation. The amount spent in so-called "Corporate Welfare" (stimulus bail-outs aside) will only reach $20B in 2009. I say only with a grain of salt.

What many people are yearning for is the return of blue collar manufacturing jobs that pay enough to put the under-educated in the middle class. These jobs were secure and protected by the unions, with a scheduled annual wage increase and a healthy pension for retirement. Unfortunately, most of the local manufacturers have not hired new employees in decades, and the ones they do hire are heavily connected to people in the local union.

It has been heavily reported that America is now a knowledge economy. We are quickly becoming a white collar country, where education and flexibility are the keys to success. This is hard to swallow for those who have fought the corporate establishment for generations, pitting the worker against the corporation and the corporation against the worker, as though they were two separate entities.

Wages are heavily determined by the local market. You can hire someone in Buffalo for $12.50 per hour or about $26,000 per year. This is a shame. You can't find someone to work the most entry level menial jobs in other parts of the country for that wage. Does that mean the average worker should be earning $28.00 per hour ($58,200 p/y), the current UAW average (sometimes reported to be as high as $70 p/h)? I honestly don't know. We live in a global economy where the average worker in China is paid $.72 per hour. The average worker in Mexico is paid about $2.96 per hour. In America, where we have no idea what true poverty is, unlike China, Mexico, and India, we have a hard time hiring people to work for as much as they are getting in welfare.

Although it has been proven and disproved that increasing wages will reduce the number of welfare recipients, I tend to side with the proven camp. I like to cite this article to show the correlation and effect of increasing minimum wage has on welfare roles. http://tinyurl.com/yefootf

You might enjoy this study, as it will support a lot of what you believe in terms of welfare recipients and refutes some of the common myths and legends (granted the report is now a little outdated).

The fact is that there are many on welfare who choose not to look for work, partially due to the fact that by staying on welfare they will bring home between 65% - 75% of what they would earn by working a minimum wage job (all social benefits included). It is difficult to convince someone to get out and start the track towards a higher salary when they can sit back and get the check for free. Believe it or not, this is a common mentality and is part of the welfare culture. A person who goes to work everyday for minimum wage may be criticized by those in his or her community for doing so. This is similar to the "college boy" chiding that would be used on the blue collar manufacturing lines when someone wanted to improve their position in life.

Jobs in Buffalo are going to be difficult to come by, and if you want them you will need to prepare for them. Minimum skills and qualifications might get you minimum wage, and a poor employment record will probably preclude someone from getting hired again. That said, there are many minimum wage jobs open throughout the area, some right on the major bus lines. There has been a help wanted sign at one store in the University Plaza for almost four months. You can't get much closer to the bus and transit lines than this. I have a friend who works for a local bank and he says that he cannot find employees who 1) want to work second shift 2) can pass basic background checks. He said that he has offered entry level positions to dozens of people who do not show up the first day, he has scheduled interviews with scores of people who do not show up for the interview, or who are not prepared for the interview. We need to figure out how to bridge the gap between those who want jobs and those who have jobs to offer.

The middle class is still dominant, and the overwhelming majority of WNYers do live in modest homes. Keep in mind that Spaulding Lake only has about 40 homes in the entire development. There are many McMansions in Clarence and Amherst, but there are many more modest 1,100 - 1,500 sqft homes in those areas, some dating back to the 1800s. In most suburban neighborhoods you will find houses that are almost identical to those found in the city, the only difference is the neighborhood and municipality they are in.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

The difference is those that attack the poor are picking on the weakest. Maybe if real opportunities were not so hard to come by there would be less "leaches" and more middle class citizens. Of course that would require a more equitable distribution of wealth, some crazy idea like paying a person a decent wage for a days work and returning to the income tax rates that were in place in the 50's and 60's. You know that time when the middle class was dominant and most folks had a modest home and few people lived in McMansions or in Spaulding Lake.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Then how do you explain the attacks on the Powell family here on BRO, on the Buffalo News site, and on AM radio?

jimmy
jimmy

Having contempt for the lazy who leach off the system is no worse than having contempt for the wealthy who inherited their riches. They are both similar in more ways than they are dissimilar and both are favorite sports in Buffalo.

You love taking shots at the rich as much as some like taking shots at the poor.

jimmy
jimmy

People don't hate the poor, in fact they are usually sympathetic and understanding when someone is down on their luck. What people in Buffalo hate are the generations of lazy people who leach off the system year after year after year. You know who I am talking about, the woman who has 10 children by 10 different absentee fathers who appears on the news at Thanksgiving time. The guy who is between jobs for the second decade in a row. The person who claims disability benefits but isn't disabled at all. These are the people we hate. Not the elderly, the truly disabled, or those who are truly down on their luck. These people deserve a lot more sympathy and support than we currently give them. It is the others who give the poor a bad name.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Because hating the poor is a favorite sport in Buffalo, especially since the Bills suck.

The Kettle
The Kettle

More bitter, self-righteous comments about this family? Why is it every time this story gets brought up the discussion degenerates into a Buffalo News style smug fest?

orlanmon
orlanmon

I know there are many contrasting viewpoints on this family getting this home and other various amentities for free and I am not going to go there; honestly good for them as far as I am concerned. In my opinion the big picture is more important here. This is good, no sorry scratch that.. AMAZING PR for the city of Buffalo. Thousands of independent volunteers came out to lend a hand or donate resources to help transform a couple of blocks of the West Side. ReUse, Push Buffalo, AmeriCorps all banded together with their volunteers and services to make it happen. Now that it's over we can all sit back and watch as the story unfolds again but this time with a nationwide audience in a two hour EM special. Now that the cameras shut off so many questions can be posed; can this neighborhood survive (not sure), will it rebound or will it fall futher into decay (homicide already), can Buffalo do this again without EM Cameras (I say yes), etc..etc.. Regardless of all those unanswered questions I still think as far as the big picture is concerned this is a huge win for Buffalo.

Rev. Drew
Rev. Drew

Even if the congregation were paying for my party (they are not--at least not beyond paying my salary), what would be wrong with that? I think churches need to throw more parties for other people!

urbanslaw
urbanslaw

The answer is to drop out and live off the gov. Things seem to work in your favor when someone else pays your way. Bank some cash then lose your job then you can sponge off the system for awhile. If you have a sad enough story they'll throw in the house and car for free! We live in a great country where there are so many rich that it actually pays to be poor.

Charlie Riley
Charlie Riley

Warehousedweller, you are a douche. We all have our issues and have needed help in the past, its a shame you are part of this community. Good for you that you have done so much on your own that you do not require some assistance. I'm sure we could dig something up on each person. Just sad, especially around the holidays.

Charlie Riley
Charlie Riley

Warehousedweller, you are a douche. We all have our issues and have needed help in the past, its a shame you are part of this community. Good for you that you have done so much on your own that you do not require some assistance. I'm sure we could dig something up on each person. Just sad, especially around the holidays.

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

If Extreme Makeover had given you the house, at least it would've kept you from making your insensitive comment. Of course, then someone else on this site would've made an insulting comment about you.

warehousedweller
warehousedweller

the sad part is that these people , that are from more than one family and are probably getting welfare and food stamps and heap and so on !!!! they wont be able to upkeep the property and wont be able to maintain the free car they got !!what about the propety tax's that will be way higher ? oh wait they prolly got a tax brake !oh and the rev. is holding a party at his house on the congregations dime !!! these cockroaches are a joke !!!! words of the government !!!

Rev. Drew
Rev. Drew

I'm hosting a watching party at my house. If you want to go, send me an email at drew@elmwoodjesus.org

jimmy
jimmy

I can't wait for this two-hour special. Friends in Virginia are meeting at Jimmy's Old Town Tavern in Herndon to watch this, just like they do for the Bills and Bulls games. This is big news to so many, and a great change for this neighborhood. I hope we can do something similar next year.

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