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$50 million Investment to Homewood Residential Development

Trib Live
June 26, 2016
by Bob Bauder

This will be the biggest investment in Homewood in 70 years” – Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess

projectsNearly $50 million in residential development is expected to kick off in coming months in one of Pittsburgh’s poorest neighborhoods, city and neighborhood officials said.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, Building United of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh have plans and funding in place to build and renovate about 170 single-family homes and town houses on mostly vacant and publicly owned property in Homewood, officials said. Construction is expected to start this year and in early 2017.

Nonprofit Allegheny Housing Rehabilitation Corp. in Friendship plans to build and renovate 59 additional row houses in the area of Kelly Street and North Dallas Avenue, but the project hinges on the company’s getting low-income housing tax credits, said Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess.

“This will be the biggest investment in Homewood in 70 years,” said Burgess of North Point Breeze, who has worked with Mayor Bill Peduto to create a collaborative of community groups for redevelopment of five distressed East End neighborhoods.

Homewood for years has been one of the city’s most blighted and crime-plagued neighborhoods.

The population, predominantly black, dropped from about 30,000 in 1940 to 6,400 in 2010.

The most recent city Planning Department data show unemployment in 2000 ranged from 37 percent in Homewood South to about 43 percent in Homewood West, compared with 5.9 percent for the rest of Pittsburgh.

Median income was $15,000 to $25,000, and more than 1,000 vacant houses dotted the neighborhood, according to demographic data.

The crime rate in 2014 was one of the highest in the city, and 12 of the city’s 71 homicides occurred in Homewood, according to the Pittsburgh Police Bureau’s most recent annual report.

City officials said the five major housing projects would bring market rate and affordable housing to Homewood, help eradicate blighted vacant lots and provide jobs and workforce development for residents.

“I think it’s good as long as they’re going to work with the community and give the community what it wants and not just build quote-unquote projects,” said Zinna Scott, 69, a homeowner in Homewood for 40 years. “We don’t want that. We want to see something that’s sustainable and going to be there for 50 years.”

Projects are being funded with private investment, low-income housing tax credits and about $19 million in cash and loan subsidies provided by the housing authority.

“You’re creating new housing stock; you’re rehabbing the stock that’s there,” said the Rev. Sam Ware, executive director of Building United of Southwestern Pennsylvania. “You’re removing blight, and as you bring in new housing stock, both affordable and market rate, that helps lift the value of all the housing. Getting better quality housing and those kinds of things, that also enhances public safety.”

The projects are the first steps in a larger initiative known as HELP organized by Burgess, Peduto’s office and community groups to redevelop five East End neighborhoods, including Homewood, East Hills, East Liberty, Lincoln-Lemington and Larimer.

Modeled after the housing authority’s $30 million Choice Neighborhoods housing development in Larimer, HELP is designed to spur development starting with plans for how residents want development to happen.

Kevin Acklin, who chairs the URA and serves as Peduto’s chief of staff, said HELP would provide a blueprint for planning and funding community-driven development.

“This is organizing the community and all of the government functions that are involved in community driven development, bringing them all to the table and identifying … what we want to see happen here,” Acklin said.

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