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Buffalo setting aside land for Fruit Belt land trust

Common Council President, Darius Pridgen, announces city's plans to set aside vacant lots for Fruit Belt Community Land Trust.

It's the news many low income residents in the Historic Fruit Belt neighborhood in Buffalo have been waiting to hear, after more than a decade of fighting gentrification.

Buffalo Common Council President, Darius Pridgen, took to his radio program Friday, "City administration...starts setting aside land...setting aside land...you're hearing it first...for the first land trust in the fruit belt."

The folks who live in the Fruit Belt neighborhood, east of the thriving Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, worry that soaring property values are forcing people out who can't afford to pay increased rent or property taxes.

Pridgen tells 2 On Your Side city administrators will meet Tuesday to decide which lots will go to the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust.

"Basically," Pridgen explained to his listeners, "land trust means those lots would stay in the hands of working class and low income people. So, whatever the community land trust builds there, as far as housing, for 99 years it cannot be transferred to wealthy people. It cannot be sold to wealthy people."

Pridgen says those lots set aside by the city will then be presented to members of the Fruit Belt Advisory Council on Thursday for their approval.

"I'm terribly excited," admits Annette Lott, Treasurer of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust.

Members of the land trust as well as the Fruit Belt Advisory Council spoke Channel 2's Emily Lampa about about their efforts over the past 5 years to secure land from the city.

As a private, nonprofit corporation, a land trust owns and develops donated land while marketing housing to low and moderate income households and selling homes at below-market prices.

"Right now the rents in the Fruit Belt are $1,400 in some places," explains Lott. "Much too high for individuals for low income and poor people to be able to afford."

The City of Buffalo owns more than 200 vacant lots in the Fruit Belt neighborhood. It's still not clear which lots, and how many, the city plans to donate to the FBCLT.

In the business plan submitted by the FBCLT, the cost to buy the lots is an estimated $106,430.10.

They're asking the city to donate the lots and other city-owned property as well as to subsidize the land trust's first five years of operation.

"We feel that what we're attempting to do is a value not just to the residents of the community, but to the city as a whole," Lott says.

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