Construction begins on Polish Hill's first permanently affordable homes

click to enlarge An image of the front of a boxy, modernist house with a turquoise exterior and a white door
Image: City of Bridges Community Land Trust
Rendering of the affordable housing project in Polish Hill

This week, the City of Bridges Community Land Trust begins construction on their long-awaited four-unit affordable housing project in Polish Hill.

“After a long fundraising process and delays due to COVID-19 and supply chain disruptions, we are so excited to begin construction on these homes,” CBCLT Executive Director Ed Nusser says in a release. “The neighborhood has worked for a community-centered development at this site for more than a decade and we are proud to help activate residents' vision for their community."

City of Bridges describes Tuesday’s groundbreaking as “the capstone in a 4-year process to create a community-endorsed design and secure the necessary funding,” writing that the project was made possible by a grant of $750,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh and a land donation from the Pittsburgh Housing Development Corporation, a nonprofit subsidiary of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

CBCLT says the median price of homes in Polish Hill has more than tripled since 2015 to nearly $300,000, which it notes is “a cost entirely out of reach for most residents.”

“These four units are part of a total of eight new homes that will eventually be built at the key neighborhood intersection at Brereton and Dobson Streets,” reads the release, “known locally as the 'Fire Site,' where many of the previous structures were destroyed by arson in 2007.”

As a community land trust, City of Bridges focuses on building “community-led ownership” of permanently affordable homes, according to its website.

“If/when the owners move on and sell their home, they will sell to another low-to-moderate income household,” explains CBCLT in the release. “This allows the seller to build wealth and the community to remain affordable.”

John Rhodes, a member of the Polish Hill Civic Association and treasurer of the CBCLT board, believes this project is the neighborhood’s first income-restricted housing, and says its construction "would highlight a bold new chapter of focus for the neighborhood, carrying in the tradition of [housing] advocates from past generations."

CBCLT writes that “two of the homes will be made a priority for low-to-moderate income populations who experience compounded housing injustice and discrimination including individuals with mental, physical, or developmental disabilities, individuals fleeing domestic abuse, in addiction recovery, or HIV-positive individuals.”