This Study was authorized by the Buffalo City Council to examine the City of Buffalo’s current housing market, the City’s regulation of housing and residential development, and how the City should set its goals and policies to best suit the community’s short- and long-term residential needs. For many years, the City of Buffalo has had as a primary planning goal the intent to be the primary provider of commercial goods and services in the Wright County region. During the decade of the 1990s, this goal became reality as commercial expansion occurred rapidly in the Highway 55 and 25 corridors. The City’s planning focus was centered around a theme of containing that growth within a three-pointed area, with Target serving as an anchor to the southeast, Walmart and the Hospital/Clinic area as an anchor to the north, and the City’s traditional downtown on the south. In addition to planning for both land use and transportation improvements to support that arrangement, the City created a diverse land use pattern in its Comprehensive Plan and associated zoning ordinances. The residential component was dominated by low-density housing, but incorporated areas of middle and higher densities, including recommendations for higher density in and around the downtown area.
NAC studied the history of Buffalo’s housing market, providing inventory and demographics numbers included in graphs throughout the plan. Affordability was studied with AMI (Area Median Income) for both Buffalo and the surrounding Twin Cities 7 county area. Housing value charts displayed ranges of value with the number of units associated with the range.
Some examples of the data investigated:
• Area Median Income in Buffalo is $63,830
• In the 2011-2015 American Community Survey, the median Housing Value in Buffalo was estimated to be $168,100. Average for homesteads based on most recent tax assessed values was around $153,000.
• 65% of housing units were single family detached, 7% had 2-9 units, 15% for 10 units and up. (2011-2015 American Community Survey)
• 67% Owner Occupied, 33% Renter Occupied.
• Significant split in percentage of income dedicated to housing costs between owners and renters: 60% of owner-occupied households paid 20% or less of their income on housing. 50% of renter-occupied households spend 35% or more of their income on housing.
• Based on taxable assessed values and assuming a 30 year mortgage at 4.4% interest, it appears that an estimated 61% of Homesteads are affordable to a household making 50% of the area median income.
GIS maps are useful components to visually display areas of the City in respect to housing values and types of housing.
Summary – Goals and Policies In seeking to support both short-term and long-term housing and subdivision design in Buffalo, the key factors can be summarized as:
1. Variety – the continued intentional objective of providing housing opportunities for all segments of the market.
2. Adaptability – the interest in supporting housing and neighborhoods that can accommodate changes in lifestyles over time, and encourage neighborhood stability.
3. Creativity – subdivision design and architecture that responds to the locality with features that reflect the community and the environment, rather than merely perpetuate the same-old.
4. Quality – buildings and infrastructure that seek to incorporate high-end, durable, and reliable materials and construction.
5. Amenity – neighborhood development that focuses on quality of life and provision of features, both natural and man-made, that set the neighborhood.
6. Connectivity – facilitating the incorporation of new housing into the community through physical connections, and larger planning efforts that support the patronage of local commercial and institutional assets.
These statements are intended to be utilized as benchmarks for the consideration of subdivision design and new housing opportunities. Preserving Buffalo’s Small Town Character is the fundamental requirement to ensure that Buffalo continues to be a sought-after community as it grows and changes in size and scope.