Slumdog Millionaire, or Slumlord Millionaire?


Housing issues have been a problem for many years in Buffalo. It is not something new for anyone who lives here. Many are upset because of the constant neglect from housing owners after a certain period of time. Complaints have been made about pipes that freeze in the cold weather. If you know anything about Buffalo you’ll know that it is cold most of the time. Other complaints have been made in regards to the lack of heat, hot water, a poor foundation, condition of houses, and the owner’s lack of attention towards their tenants.

One of my only concerns is that families are told things will change, and feel like they are being lied to as no changes are made. This is unacceptable and has to be addressed. One of the biggest issues with this “run around” housing is that homes that aren’t maintained become territory for drug dealers and gang members – all of which affects families and the youth exposed to this on a daily basis.

Studies and research have shown that even though socioeconomic differences, such as fewer educational opportunities, little to no health care, and poor nutrition most definitely impact a child’s learning, the environment that a child is raised in affects their academic performance. This is in regards to long-term intellectual growth, as well as the ability to sit in a classroom and pay attention to what is being taught.

Buffalo has a diverse population and thousands of refugees. In coming from one country, where everyone speaks the same and lives the same lifestyle, to a place where everything is completely different is undoubtedly a massive culture shock. Even though this should not in any way give someone the right to take advantage, many refugee families are being manipulated, treated like caged-up dogs, and when one tries to leave they are denied their security deposit back. This makes it impossible for them to rent another apartment.

One refugee who wishes to stay anonymous has told me his about his experience living in  Buffalo. He made the move from Central East Africa to America at the age of 18 because there were too many civil wars and political problems. Wishing for the American dream, the thought of living here made him happy. He felt good and was expecting to begin a new life with many opportunities. However, when his family moved into their first house and experienced their first Buffalo winter, the heat and pipes were so unreliable; the family didn’t get heat for over two weeks.

During this time, he and his family viewed such problems as minor and tried to get in touch with the landlord. This was easier said than done. When problems arose in the house, it was very difficult to reach him. The landlord promised he would send someone, but the person he sent was inexperienced, and was not equipped to take on the job.  After having to wait an additional four days (even though a week had already passed), the problem occurred once more. To make the situation worse, there were three children within the home. Raising them in that type of condition was not good, but also very dangerous, hazardous, and scary.

After having all these problems occurring in just two years of living in the house, one would think that he and his family would pack up and leave. However, this was unrealistic for this person and the family. They stayed there for two more years and tolerated such problems.

When asked why, he replied by saying, “We tried to stay in one place and relax a little bit to see what would happen. The rent wasn’t that high and the house was big enough for the family.”

As time passed, he and his family became more aware that the lifestyle in America is not as amazing as many portray it to be. As a matter of fact, it is rather hard.

“It was a bit surprising,” the same anonymous male tenant says. “In my mind I had this image of getting something, which isn’t a trouble in life.”

Reflecting on this conclusion is what made it possible for his family to leave and find a better home. He claims that the first thing that should be done is to try and speak to the refugees that come into Buffalo in order to fix the communication between tenants and landlord. There is a huge language barrier when these refugees come to America, so it would be beneficial to have some way of proper communication. That way, tenants know what they are getting themselves into when they agree to live in these places. It would also be in the tenant’s best interest to learn about their landlord before signing any contracts of any sort. Although this refugee’s story was very brutal, it is not uncommon.  K

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