The New Pittsburgh Courier
August 10, 2016
Reverend Samuel Ware is not entirely without experience in addressing the city’s housing needs. His Building United of Southwestern Pennsylvania has built, and sold, 13 single-family houses in the Homewood over the last six years.
But by next spring Rev. Ware will be doing something he’s never done before—building 40 units of affordable rental housing in the neighborhood. It’s a calling, and he plans to answer.
That’s the challenge before us and the community—to do something of scale because there is a pressing need.
It’s different for us, but it’s still about providing quality affordable housing, stabilizing the community, and if we’re successful, paving the way for more market-rate and for-sale housing.” – Reverend Samuel Ware
The project is one of several approved earlier this year by the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh to help address the shortfall in affordable housing units, which the city’s task force projected at 17,000.
Because Building United has, until now, worked strictly on for-sale homes, it is partnering with East Liberty Development Inc. for this project.
“They have the capacity and expertise because they’ve done this before,” said Rev. Ware. “I haven’t.”
Kendall Pelling, director of land recycling for ELDI said number of units could go higher, but Ware is working with the community and the recommendations made in Operation Better Block’s Homewood Cluster Plan to refine and define the project.
“We are still at the very beginning of the project. We are providing technical assistance to help them build capacity and meet their mission,” he said. “We are also helping to provide that hard-to-come-by predevelopment funding, and will help with site acquisition.”
Once the community’s input is gathered, and the vision is made specific, Pelling said the partners would make a series of funding applications to various public and private agencies.
“It’s not uncommon for a project like this to have 10 or 11 different funding streams,” he said. “It’s a lot of work to build, preserve and restore housing. One way to do real estate development is through partnerships—producing and preserving one house at a time.”
Reverend Ware is also working on an historic preservation project that will maintain 16 units of affordable housing in the Madeira Building.
These will complement 58 units of scattered site affordable housing that KBK Development is building in the neighborhood.
“We are looking at adjoining parcels of land to that project,” said Ware.
“But again, we’re working with the Cluster Plan and the community. We hope to have site assembled and make our applications by the fall. Our vision is to take advantage of public and private dollars to transform community into a place where people want to be, where you can’t tell a subsidized home from a market rate home—and expanded mixed income community where everybody wins.”