Skip To Content

Exploring Immigration, Demographics, and the Local Impact

So I just left a government affairs committee meeting for the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors, and it was like getting a mini lesson on immigration and demographics.  Suffice it to say that it is virtually impossible to pick up a newspaper, or read a blog, or look at a post on Facebook these days and NOT hear or see something about the immigration “dilemma” we are facing in our country today. WE are not the only ones facing a crisis as populations continue to move about all over the world so perhaps the only thing that is unique in our case are the shear numbers of people who are being displaced and the total inability for the present government to come up with a solution that makes any sense at all out of it. But let’s get back to the local level.

The guest speaker was the supervisor for the town of Tonawanda. For our trivia aficionados out there, “Tonawanda” is one of the scores of towns and localities in our area of 716 that bears a name that was inspired by our native American population.  It means “swift streams” and it comes from the Seneca tribe. The speaker went on to explain how well the town is doing and in point of fact, this town is doing very well indeed, and in some respects could be a model for how to run a small town in America.   He did point out, however,  that in 1971 they had the current population printed on the nearby water tower and back then it came in at 111,536.  Today some 2 generations later, the count comes in closer to 71000.  That’s a lot of people who seem to have flown the coop.  A closer look further reveals that the vacancy rate in Tonawanda is less than 2%.  This, coupled with the fact that outside of a very rare empty lot or two where a house may have burned down a few years ago, there are no tracks of land available for expansion. So growth is not something one will be expecting anytime soon in this town. But either way, you may still be scratching your head at this time thinking “So what the hell happened to nearly 40,000 people?

It turns out that most of those houses back in the 70’s were occupied by the baby boomer generation. and even if the house was a simple little “saltbox” or cape cod style of 1000 s.f. with only one bathroom in it, there were typically 5, 6, or 7 kids living in each of them.  I had a friend who grew up in Tonawanda and she was one of 6 girls, and counting the parents, there were 8 people using a single bathroom. My friend Carol, went on to tell me that, “Neither she, nor any of her friends thought anything of that. That was normal back then.”  Americans are just not having big families anymore.Today, most of these houses have perhaps one or two senior citizens living in them and their kids have all moved away but hopefully have stayed in another nearby town in WNY.  Some of us have discovered that It’s no fun living far away from the grandkids. So what does any of this have to do with the situation at our southern border?

The answer to this is perhaps for the immediate future, nothing.  It is a reasonable presumption that none of those “asylum seekers” will be coming to Tonawanda. There are very few rentals and there is little to no public housing there to accommodate them.  And even though there appears on face value to be room to stack up 40000 people or so, the Government at this time is not going to force a lonely widow or widower to take in borders they do not want. Hopefully, the phrase “at this time” doesn’t come back to haunt all of us but this would NOT be an equitable solution no matter how you cut it.

At the same time, this morning, the Erie County Executive just commented on the fact that “there is No Crisis in WNY right now, like there is at the southern border and those in the neighboring states.”  There is no crisis because our heretofore unwelcomed “illegal Immigrants” haven’t arrived yet. Erie and Niagara counties have said these groups are welcome. So far so good for well wishing. That being said. I am as humanitarian as the next guy but politics aside, we are talking about actual people who need help. Children who are hungry. Parents who worry for the safety of their families. I thought it was the acme of hypocrisy when 100% of the immigrants were turned away when they showed up on Martha’s Vineyard.  The NIMBY (NOT IN MY BACKYARD) philosophy seems to reign supreme in the United States. Where the crisis will occur is when the local municipalities throw their respective humanitarian hats into the area and cannot come up with a solution for paying for their largesse and benevolence and simply try to kick the problem down the road to some other town or city or state.

“Hey, I wrote the book on Real Estate, literally.”

Author Brendan J. Cunningham is a New York Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, lead of the Platinum Team at HusVar Real Estate, as well as an accomplished writer, Shakespearean trained professional actor, and podcaster.
Start your home search now at

Trackback from your site.

Leave a Reply