Housing | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |
Thursday, June 30, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2016 at 5:06 PM

Chicago-based journalist Natalie Moore visits the Barnes & Noble at the Waterfront, in West Homestead, with her new book The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation (St. Martin’s Press).

click to enlarge Natalie Moore
Natalie Moore
The books explores government policies that have kept Chicago segregated by race. Moore argues that race (rather than class) is the defining factor in inequality and a pervasive feature of life there.

The critically acclaimed book should have resonance nationally, and perhaps especially in Pittsburgh, where segregation is rife and where many say an influx of new development (hello, East Liberty!) has left many longtime residents, in particular African Americans, without affordable housing.

“While mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel have touted Chicago as a ‘world-class city,’ it remains one of the most segregated cities in America,” according to press materials for The South Side. “And while it would be easy to think of a city with a billion-dollar park, Michelin-rated restaurants, waterfront views, world-class shopping, and a thriving theater scene as a model for other metropolitan areas, underneath the shiny façade lurks the horrible reality of deeply-rooted and destructive racial segregation.”

Moore grew up in Chicago’s South Side and is the South Side bureau reporter for WBEZ-FM, Chicago’s NPR station. In the past, she’s worked for Detroit News, St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Associated Press in Jerusalem. Her journalism has also been published in national outlets including Essence and In These Times.

Moore will be at Barnes & Noble for an informal discussion from 7-9 p.m. tomorrow. The event is free.

The store is located at 100 West Bridge St.

Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Posted By on Tue, Jun 21, 2016 at 3:44 PM

Affordable-housing issues could be put to the Pittsburgh voters this fall. Labor-advocacy group Pittsburgh United is leading the charge to gather 15,000 signatures that would place a referendum to city voters, asking for a 1 percent realty-transfer tax increase to create and fund the Housing Opportunity Fund. (This fund was originally referred to as an affordable-housing trust fund in the city’s Affordable Housing Task Force’s recommendations).
click to enlarge Jennifer Kennedy, of Pittsburgh United, announces goal of placing affordable-housing initiative on November ballot at a press conference in the North Side. - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
Photo by Ryan Deto
Jennifer Kennedy, of Pittsburgh United, announces goal of placing affordable-housing initiative on November ballot at a press conference in the North Side.
The goal is to raise at least $10 million per year to fund affordable-housing and rehabilitation projects throughout the city. Jennifer Kennedy, director of strategic campaigns for Pittsburgh United, says this is the first affordable-housing ballot initiative the city has ever seen. The flier for the ballot initiative says the fund will rehabilitate 270 homes for renters, create 234 new affordable homes, and provide rental assistance to 180 families each year.

“Development in Pittsburgh has benefited some, but it has also increased housing prices for many,” says Kennedy. “That is why we are starting a grassroots ballot initiative to create and fund this Housing Opportunity Fund.”

Local chapters of Service Employees International Union, Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network, the Sierra Club, Just Harvest and Action United are among the groups that support the ballot initiative. Kennedy says that over the last five years, an average of $9 million per year would have been created if a hypothetical 1 percent realty-transfer tax were applied. Last year, a 1 percent increase would have generated over $10 million.

During the press conference, Angel Gober, of the Brightwood Citizens Council, stood in front of two abandoned homes that were set for rehabilitation in the Marshall-Shadeland area of the North Side. She spoke to the success of a few recent home rehabs in the area but said it took a “very, very long time” to accomplish.

“We want to change this neighborhood and turn it around,” says Gober. “But it is hard to do when the pot of funds is limited.”

And the pot is not only limited, but it has been shrinking dramatically over the years. According to Mark Masterson of the North Side Community Development Fund, federal housing-support funding has shrunk from $25 million per year to $13 million. State funding has decreased from $7 million per year to virtually nothing. He applauds this effort to create a local source of funding for affordable housing issues.

Masterson also says that local funds have much more flexibility than federal or state funds. This effort adds to other goals to raise local funds for affordable housing, including a special fund for the East Liberty area. He says the Housing Opportunity Fund fund could create not only new affordable rental housing, but also could support a Community Land Trust (an affordable home-ownership device), and be used to help low-income residents with modest home changes that will keep them living in their city neighborhoods.

Kennedy says that, if passed, decisions on how to spend the fund would go through the two Affordable Housing Task Force boards, which are made up of elected officials, city staff, developers and community members. The funds would eventually make their way to local community-development corporations.

“The great thing about this is that it gives local groups the ability to fix things,” says Masterson.

Dan Wood, chief of staff for Pittsburgh City Councilor Daniel Lavelle, says the councilor, who co-chairs the city’s Affordable Housing Task Force, is fully supported of this initiative.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 12:18 AM

click to enlarge STOCK IMAGE
Stock image

Allegheny County announced today that it received a $3.4 million lead-hazard grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to remediate houses that were built before lead paint was banned in 1978.

“We want our residents to live in, and be able to purchase, safe, healthy and affordable housing. With an older housing stock in many of our communities, programs like Allegheny Lead Safe Homes are an important part of that process,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in a press release.

In response to the grant, which the county applied for on April 28, the county has created a new program called Allegheny Lead Safe Homes. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's 2014 Childhood Lead Surveillance report, about 90 percent of homes in Allegheny County pre-date 1978.

"Lead can be contained in any number of things, most commonly we believe that lead paint inside homes is the most significant contributor to lead poisoning in children," Dr. Marilyn Howarth, director of the Center for Excellence in Environmental Toxicology at the University of Pennsylvania said in May before City Paper's story on childhood lead levels in Allegheny County. Kids can get lead dust on their hands while playing on the ground and then put their hands in their mouths, thus causing lead poisoning, she said.

In Allegheny County, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and ACTION Housing will oversee the distribution of funds to a number of organizations. To receive funding, properties must be built before 1978, house a child under age 6 and those in the house must meet HUD's income requirements. The county plans to start the work in the next 60-90 days, and it expects to intervene in about 200 homes where kids under age 6 are living.

The findings in Pa. DOH's 2014 report show that about 1,000 kids in Allegheny County have blood lead levels at or above the Centers for Disease Control's reference point of 5 micrograms per deciliter.

Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, and who has pushed for mandatory lead testing in children between 9 and 12 months and again at 24 months, praised the grant in an emailed statement. “This is excellent news and we intend to work closely with Allegheny County. Our current Healthy Homes program has conducted education and home inspections related to children with high lead levels but we have been unable to help support remediation,” Hacker wrote. “These dollars will definitely help us improve the health of children in our county, since our main risk for lead poisoning is from lead paint in older homes.”

Remediation can cost thousands of dollars, which falls on homeowners and which landlords are not legally obligated to pay. Allegheny County says it was the only one of three applicants from Pennsylvania to receive funding. According to HUD, three applicants from Pa. applied for funding, and the office says it cannot reveal what the other locations were. Shantae Goodloe, of HUD Public Affairs, wrote in an email, "We are unable to say much (such as number of applicants, who applied, who was eligible, etc.) about our current applicants while they are going through the review process. We can make most of this information available after the review has concluded and expect to have the process completed in about a month."

According to the Pa. DOH's 2014 report, Warren and Lehigh counties, where the cities of Warren and Allentown are located, had the highest proportion of children with blood lead levels at or above the CDC's number. 

Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 1:07 PM

Access to good public transportation seems like an obvious component of affordable-housing planning, but history shows that it hasn’t been so far.

Here in the Pittsburgh area, there are many low-income housing projects that sit in isolated sections of the city, in blighted areas with limited bus access. (For example, Bedford Dwellings, in the Hill District, gets a bus only every 35 to 40 minutes, even during rush hour.)

click to enlarge Map showing the disparity between frequent bus service routes and the region's poorest neighborhoods - IMAGE COURTESY OF PCRG
Image courtesy of PCRG
Map showing the disparity between frequent bus service routes and the region's poorest neighborhoods
In response to this ominous trend, transit advocates posed some public-transportation questions to Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing Task Force at a May 24 panel discussion hosted by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. The discussion was centered on funding issues involving the city’s proposed Affordable Housing Trust Fund and how it can raise its goal of $10 million annually.

Molly Nichols, of public-transportation advocacy group Pittsburghers for Public Transit, asked, “How can the trust fund insure that affordable housing will be built near good transit?”

Pittsburgh City Councilor and co-chair of the task force Daniel Lavelle said the yet-to-be-chosen affordable-housing advisory boards will be able to prioritize projects near transit. “We don't have this all figured out yet; all the nuances will have to be worked out down the line,” he said.

Lavelle confirmed that the tasks force’s recommendations don’t include specific language that requires new affordable housing to be near frequent public-transportation service. However, he did say that it might be possible to have a transit advocate on one of the city’s advisory boards.

Chris Sandvig, transit expert and policy director of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, asked whether other cities similar to Pittsburgh have had success creating affordable housing near current light rail and bus lines. (The new housing development above the East Liberty Busway stop has 360 units, but all are at market rate.) Members of the task force didn’t offer any specific examples to Sandvig, but said that it can be difficult to do because real estate near transit is usually in high demand.

Both Sandvig and Nichols said the exclusion of transit requirements from the task force’s recommendations was an oversight. But Sandvig said the oversight was most likely unintentional. He said that many housing and transit advocates have only recently understood that their issues are closely linked, but that they have started to push those combined agendas.

One member of the Affordable Housing Task Force did offer a possible answer to advocates' transit questions. Nikki Lu, the policy director for SEIU Western Pa., said Wisconsin-based think tank Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) recently published a report on Pittsburgh that lays out policies to help working families in the region. According to the report, “affordable housing should take into account the combined costs of the energy use and transportation needs that come with housing.” It also offers a litany of policy recommendations.

Lu applauded the questions from audience members and said that to translate their concerns into results, advocates must continue “to hold [leaders'] feet to the fire.”

According to Lavelle, the task force’s recommendations should be presented to city council sometime next week.   

Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2016 at 5:14 PM

Last month, Garfield’s now-famous tiny house sold for $109,000 (its full asking price). But ever since becoming a legitimate, owner-occupied home, the micro house has been living a peculiar life on the internet. The 330-square-foot-home has popped up on the residence-rental site Airbnb at least twice over the past month, each time mysteriously vanishing into thin air about an hour after posting.

Matt Buchholz, an artist who lives a few blocks from the tiny house, says he spotted the listing on Airbnb Sunday night and then screen-grabbed it and posted it on his twitter account (@AltHistories). A City Paper staffer also saw the tiny house posted on Airbnb about two weeks ago. Both times the posting was taken down within an hour.

click to enlarge Screen grab from @AltHistories twitter account
Screen grab from @AltHistories twitter account
Another Garfield neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote to CP that the posting “was marketed as centrally located, 15 minutes to ‘anywhere you want to be.’” Buchholz says the listing showed the host’s name as “Anne Marie” and indicated that the cost to rent the house was $99 a night.

“The fact that it's been listed and taken down twice is very odd,” wrote Buchholz in a message to CP, “and the whole use of it as an Airbnb is at odds with cityLab's [the home’s developer] stated purpose.”

The tiny house was billed as a way to provide affordable single-family homes in blighted neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. Unforeseen site costs led to a bloated price tag — $109,000, and that low only because cityLab received more than $80,000 in grants from the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority and other sources.

Rick Swartz of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation confirms Buccholz’s suspicion. Swartz says the house's owner told the developer, Eve Picker, that she and her partner would occasionally make the tiny house available to local artists, when they were out of town. The owner would work with local arts groups to let them know when the space would be available, on a limited basis, according to Swartz.

“Posting it on Airbnb could lead one to believe that her using it as a bed and breakfast may be occurring more than occasionally,” wrote Swartz to CP after the first posting two weeks ago. “I don't think the URA would accept this, and could conceivably require the developer, cityLab, to repay the $49,000 in URA funds that the project received.”

After the first posting, Swartz wrote that the fact that it was taken down quickly "may be an indication that the owner is pulling back on this." CP reached out to the developer, Picker, after the second posting, but she did not return calls by press time.

URA chair Kevin Acklin said back in October 2015 that the city was happy to invest in the tiny house and that it was a “great pilot” for an effort at a sustainable home. “It was worth the investment,” he said. “whether it is scalable, is yet to be seen.”

Art Director Lisa Cunningham contributed to this story.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2016 at 5:02 PM

click to enlarge Councilor Ricky Burgess - CP FILE PHOTO BY MIKE SCHWARZ
CP file photo by Mike Schwarz
Councilor Ricky Burgess

At a meeting held by Pittsburgh City Councilor Ricky Burgess last week, the Urban Land Institute presented what they called a teaser for their recommendations regarding future real estate and economic redevelopment in the East End.

“All of them revolve around issues of maintaining the character of the community — the essential character of the communities — while trying to attain affordability, both of housing stock and of business stock, and social equity in an environment where there’s a lot changing, and changing fairly quickly,” said ULI panel member Alan Razak.

ULI partnered with the city, and — with the assistance of a panel of non-paid real estate experts from across the nation — spent May 8-13 in the East End, speaking with residents and analyzing data gathered by other sources on the state of its neighborhoods.

The study is part of Burgess’s HELP Initiative which came to fruition in October of last year and aims to direct development in the Homewood, East Liberty, Larimer, Lincoln, Lemington and Belmar neighborhoods to ensure affordable housing.

The key recommendations in ULI's report included: completing a plan to make neighborhood planning easier across the city, creating property tax protection, engaging with anchor institutions (with an emphasis on philanthropic organizations like universities and hospitals), combating neighborhood boundaries, working east-to-west geographically in terms of tackling neighborhood revitalization, engaging current residents and using the HELP Initiative and East Liberty Development, Inc.’s presence in the communities to their advantage.

Board members from ULI walked through every East End neighborhood in their presentation, going over a series of recommendations, unique to each. They emphasized that each neighborhood has its own set of characteristics, and that these qualities should be taken into consideration before making any major changes.

The researchers found a mixed sense of boundaries in the East End contributes to a disparate idea of where neighborhoods begin and end. ULI recommended the use of parks and green space to designate neighborhood lines, while connecting the communities.

The study determined that the median income for Pittsburgh residents is approximately $41,000, while median income for East End residents is $23,000. Median home purchases came out to around $24,500 in East End, but home repairs and renovations for homes in the area are at around $150,000 per home.

ULI presented data that suggests Pittsburgh will experience a population growth of 29,000 in the next two decades, stating that East Liberty will likely absorb most of this residential demand.

“What does a city that used to be 600,000 people look like when it’s 300,000 people?” said Razak “It’s a potentially tough choice. In simplest terms, it boils down to when you have a population, do you cut the area in half, or do you cut your density in half? If these were the only two choices, we on the panel, I think, would opt for density.”

Of the 3,519 housing units in East End, nearly 87 percent are occupied, and of those occupied residences, 78 percent are rentals. One million square feet of commercial property is present in East End, and ULI said the area has huge potential to develop economic growth if the the proper steps are taken.

The full East End revitalization plan is currently being compiled by ULI, and the post agenda presentation is available for viewing on City of Pittsburgh’s website.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Posted By on Thu, May 12, 2016 at 4:27 PM

click to enlarge Cherylie Fuller speaks before Pittsburgh City Council
Cherylie Fuller speaks before Pittsburgh City Council
Following in the footsteps of neighboring neighborhoods in the East End, Homewood is poised for redevelopment. But in a continuation of what has happened in the neighborhoods surrounding it, this week Homewood residents attended a Pittsburgh City Council meeting to say they're being left out of the revitalization process.

"We have several different community groups that are supposed to work with the [city], and that's not happening," said Karen Gillian, president of the Homewood Tenants United Union.

As part of his "City for All Agenda", Homewood representative Ricky Burgess recently launched the the HELP (Homewood, East Hills, East Liberty, Larimer, Linconln-Lemington-Belmar) Protection Initiative to "bring together public and private partners to develop an East End multi-neighborhood affordable housing protection strategy." 

The city contracted with the Urban Land Institute to conduct neighborhood research, and on Friday, May 13, city council will hear the results of their study at a post agenda. But three Homewood residents testified yesterday that some East End community groups weren't included in ULI's study.  

"When residents are not involved in the process, engagement is contested," said Cherylie Fuller, executive director of the Homewood Concerned Citizens Council. "Gentrification and displacement are growing concerns in community development and urban revitalization. Pittsburgh is in a period of resurgence, gaining renewed interest from people who want to live and work in urban neighborhoods. This has resulted in gentrification pressures in certain communities in Pittsburgh."

Fuller says she received an email from ULI too late for her to R.S.V.P. to participate in the resident interview process.

"Planning efforts seem to have been going on for some time," said Fuller. "Perhaps it would have benefited a resident-driven organization such as the Homewood Citizens Council to be involved in the planning process, because it would impact many soon-to-be displaced Homewood residents."
However, in an email obtained by Pittsburgh City Paper, Councilor Burgess contacted Fuller to say she still had time to participate after the initial deadline had passed.

"Anybody who wanted to participate from the community groups that I knew, I invited to participate," says Burgess. "It's really important that we have a resident-driven process."

Burgess said he didn't know which community organizations and residents were included in the study because the interviews are confidential, but he said he knows community organizations were interviewed.

At council, speakers said only certain community organizations were included. East Liberty Development Inc., is leading the initiative to develop the strategy for preserving affordable housing in the East End, and Fuller expressed concern about their involvement considering the number of residents she says were displaced from East Liberty during its redevelopment. 

"As we continue to move the Homewood community forward, we don't endeavor for it to be a repeat of the negative publicity surrounding the gentrification in East Liberty where residents felt they weren't a part of the process," says Fuller. "Many of them are now homeless, and they're displaced."

East End resident Judith Ginyard also testified at yesterday's council meeting. She criticized Burgess and echoed the sentiment that neighborhood community groups haven't been included in redevelopment plans.

"Unfortunately with the community development that's going on, the process does not permit the community residents to be involved. Things are being dictated from down here in city council, especially from you Rev. Burgess," said Ginyard, who has run against the councilor in past elections. "The community residents demand to have a voice and to be included in the process early on, not at the end." 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Posted By on Wed, May 11, 2016 at 1:13 PM

If you haven’t noticed, Pittsburgh has been going through a bit of development and construction boom. For decades, landscapes of the city featured run-down structures and dilapidating buildings, and while there is still plenty of that, there are also now dozens of streets filled with scaffolding and recently completed modern-looking buildings.

How can Pittsburghers keep track? Well a local journalist and educator might have the answer.

click to enlarge Development shown in pins across Pittsburgh - IMAGE COURTESY OF PGHPAPERSTREETS.COM
Image courtesy of pghpaperstreets.com
Development shown in pins across Pittsburgh
Patrick Doyle, a public radio reporter and adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh, created an independent project to map as many city developments as he can. It is called PGH Paper Streets, and is named after the Pittsburgh streets that exist on maps, but are not publicly maintained roads (like some city staircases).

“When I moved in 2013 to Pittsburgh, the city was going through development boom, but it was hard to find out what is really going on,” says Doyle.

He was inspired by a blog in Denver, where he used to live, that tracked all the development projects of the city. Doyle says his map shows what many have already expected about development in the city: the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of development projects are Downtown, the Strip District, Lawrenceville and the East End.

However, Doyle says that Uptown was a surprise with a few development projects happening along its Fifth/Forbes avenues corridor. (City Paper wrote about Uptown’s potential in addressing the ‘two Pittsburghs’ problem last winter.)

Doyle gathers information from news reports and development plans to fill out his map. He emphasizes that the project is still in beta mode, since there are some development projects that have not made it onto the map and because the projects are constantly changing. He also only includes projects started January 2015 and that are over 20,000 square feet.

He says he hopes to build the website out a bit and provide links to articles, community meetings and site plans that are associated with each project.

“I really want it to be a research tool for the average Pittsburgher,” says Doyle.

To read CP’s feature this week on the potential development in Beechview, and how the Latino community is contributing to it.

Tags: , , ,

Friday, April 29, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2016 at 11:16 AM

click to enlarge Most every seat in Council Chambers was filled for today's post agenda on affordable housing. - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
Photo by Ryan Deto
Most every seat in Council Chambers was filled for today's post agenda on affordable housing.
According to Pittsburgh's Affordable Housing Task Force, the city would need an annual $10 million investment to seriously address the city's affordable housing crisis. 

"One of the thing's that is critical to any kind of affordable housing effort in the city is a dedicated source of funds to pay for it," said task force co-chair Raymond Gastil. "It's great to talk about things, but there's a severe shortage of somewhere between 19- and 21-thousand units. You need money to address that."

On Thursday Pittsburgh City Council received an update on the work of the task force at a special meeting in Council Chambers. The group has met more than 30 times since it was created last year.

In addition to establishing a $10 million Housing Trust Fund through the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, the task force is recommending programs to support existing affordable housing in the city. The task force is also recommending programs to monitor affordable housing that is set to return to market in an effort to preserve the affordability of the units.

Another recommendation calls for incentive-based inclusionary housing requirements for all developments of 25 units or more receiving public subsidies. This would include housing for households at 50 percent area median income for rental units, and 80 percent AMI for home ownership.

A final recommendation would seek to expand utilization of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit at the four percent level, which could support new affordable housing construction, as well as rehabilitation of existing housing.

"I look forward to taking the task force recommendations and seeing how we can change it from recommendations to action," said Councilor Ricky Burgess, District 9. "At the end of the day we're going to have to provide new housing whether it's new buildings or rehabbed buildings."

Members of council were overwhelmingly supportive of the recommendations. However, Council President Bruce Kraus expressed frustration with the process of securing federal funds that could be used to rehab existing affordable units.

And Councilor Darlene Harris, District 1, raised concerns about using incentives like zoning changes to entice affordable housing developments because any change could interfere with the homes of residents already living in the area.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2016 at 11:14 AM

Pittsburgh’s affordable housing policy recommendations are finally here and the community-at-large came out in force to share their thoughts. In a nutshell, the city’s Affordable Housing Task Force recommends the creation of an affordable housing trust fund of $10 million annually, supporting models like Community Land Trusts, addressing vacant properties, preserving naturally occurring affordable housing, and utilizing incentive-based inclusionary zoning. 

click to enlarge Ronell Guy of the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing speaks critically of the city's Affordable Housing Task Force's new recommendations - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
Photo by Ryan Deto
Ronell Guy of the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing speaks critically of the city's Affordable Housing Task Force's new recommendations
At a press conference held 30 minutes before the task force meeting, more than 60 people filled the hallway to Pittsburgh City Council chambers, and those who spoke were most upset by the incentive-based inclusionary zoning suggestion. 

This means if a developer receives public subsidy or city assistance like a zoning variance, only then would they be required to provide a percentage of affordable housing. However, the city has yet to specify what public subsidies or city assistance would require developers to include affordable units nor have they specified what percentages would be required.

This vagueness has caused some advocates to fear not enough will be done to fix the city’s affordable housing issues.

Helen Gerhardt of Homes For All PGH, a coalition of advocacy groups focused on affordable housing, said she commends the task force on specifying the $10 million a year goal and using Community Land trusts as a model. However, she added that all new developments should be mandated to include affordable housing, not just projects that need city assistance. She says that only 17 percent of inclusionary zoning policies in the country are incentive-based. 

“We currently face a deficit of 21,000 [affordable] units. This is a housing crisis,” said Gerhardt.

Paul O’Hanlon, a housing and disability-rights lawyer, also commended the task force and Mayor Bill Peduto, but said this should have happened years ago. He also agreed that inclusionary zoning should be mandatory and not incentive-based.

“Incentives tend to not benefit poor people. They tend to benefit developers,” said O’Hanlon.

He also believes that requiring only developments of 25 or more units to include affordable units was too weak a policy. “If five units are going up with subsidies, why shouldn’t one be affordable?” O’Hanlon was also concerned that the recommendations only mention providing housing for residents making at or below 50 percent area median income, when he said that the real need is at or below 30 percent area median income.

Ronell Guy, executive director of the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, spoke passionately to the crowd and questioned what work the task force had actually accomplished. “They did not come up with one new suggestion. We knew to do this 20 years ago,” Guy said. “There is no reason to continue to study. Just get it done.”

To Guy’s point, it appears many of the task force suggestions have already been accomplished on a smaller scale throughout the city. Peduto has already created a housing trust fund for East Liberty; nonprofit developer Lawrenceville Corporation started its own Community Land Trust in January, and incentive-based inclusionary zoning was forged through the Penn Plaza agreement concerning the Mellon Orchard development. (The owners were granted a zoning change, and the city received requirements for 20 percent affordability at the future development).

The Affordable Housing Task Force finalized proposals are due May 27. The next meeting date has not been set.

Tags: , , , ,