Redevelopment in Pittburgh's East Liberty neighborhood has magnified issues of accessibility and affordability in housing.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald both said they plan to make affordable housing a priority in 2017. Developer Jonathan Rose said "big and bold actions" are needed to address the city's affordable housing needs.
Rose is founder of the investment, development and urban planning firm Jonathan Rose Companies and wrote The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life, which talks about affordable housing. His company has an affordable housing preservation fund and is currently acquiring five Pittsburgh-area properties to provide affordable options for seniors.
“We’re buying them to preserve their affordability, make them greener and bring more social services to the residents," Rose said.
While Rose’s firm is currently focused on senior housing, he said he sees a need for affordable housing in every socioeconomic group around the country -- in urban and suburban areas, where growing poverty rates add to the need for more housing options.
In East Liberty, affordable housing advocates said redevelopment and gentrification is leaving few options for the neighborhood's low- and moderate-income residents.
“We believe the most important tool is inclusionary zoning,” Rose said. “New York City now says that if you want a zoning variance automatically the starting point is that 30 percent of the housing has to be affordable.”
Rose said building new affordable housing isn't the only solution, but that preserving existing options will be crucial as the city moves forward.
“Not only do we need to build new stock," he said. "We need to preserve our existing stock.”
City leaders' focus on affordable housing, paired with Pittsburgh's stock of historic buildings and current economic conditions serve as advantages too, Rose said.