December 22, 2020

Affordable housing project planned in Polish Hill to help battle gentrification

By haziqbinarif

A plan to build eight new affordable homes in Pittsburgh’s Polish Hill neighborhood received a $750,000 boost in a grant from a government-sponsored bank.

The City of Bridges Community Land Trust was awarded the money from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh’s affordable housing program. Each federal home loan bank is required to have such a program.

Like many other neighborhoods, Polish Hill is working to deal with gentrification and the project is designed to combat that, Polish Hill Civic Association president Lizzie Anderson said.

“When so many folks are facing such hard time, we welcome this major step towards the PHCA’s goal of maintaining affordability in neighborhood with a long history of being a place where families of any income can find a home,” Lizzie Anderson said.

The cash will help build four new homes of a total of eight that are planned to be built on Dobson and Brereton streets.

“This funding award is the last piece we need to bring these homes online,” said Ed Nusser, executive director of the land trust. “From the community’s side, this is a dozen years in the making.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto lauded the plan. He called the award “a great honor” for the land trust and the Polish Hill Civic Association, which are working together.

“Not only are they creating a legacy of affordable housing for the Polish Hill neighborhood, but … they are exemplifying a standard of how community, nonprofit and government agency partners can collaborate to help realize the vision of a neighborhood,” Peduto said.

In the last five years, the median sales price of homes in Polish Hill have tripled to nearly $240,000 — a price that’s out of reach for most city residents.

Two of the homes will have two bedrooms and will sell for $131,000. The others will be three-bedroom homes and will carry a price of $147,000, Nusser said.

They are prices that are affordable for people who earn between $35,ooo and $63,000 per year, he said.

The existing homes on the site were damaged by a 2007 arson. Since then, Polish Hill Civic Association members have been working to redevelop the area.

Anderson called the project “one tiny way” to let residents know they’re welcome in the neighborhood.

“This is our goal — we want to listen to and care for our residents,” she said.

The association, a subsidiary of the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, donated the land to the trust for the project, which has the support of the URA, its Deputy Executive Director Diamonte Walker said.

It moves forward the URA’s work to make home ownership more accessible to residents, Walker said.

“The neighborhood has worked for a community-centered development at this site for more than a decade and we are proud to help activate their vision,” Nusser said.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, or via Twitter .

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