Economy
5:44 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Housing Official Talks Rust Belt in PA

U-S Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Shaun Donovan took a trip to Pennsylvania this week to meet with clergy, city council members, and state lawmakers to dive into problems common to Pennsylvania's older cities, boroughs, and townships.

The top housing official in the Obama administration is singling out Pennsylvania cities where federal programs stand to benefit struggling neighborhoods.

Donovan insists the federal government has a role to play in breathing new life into ailing neighborhoods. He holds up a program launched in July aimed at rehabilitating financially struggling cities across the country.

"It's a pilot initiative which will help six distressed places, including Chester [PA], tackle their toughest problems," said Donovan while visiting Chester, "Chester's already partnered with Widener University to redevelop the city's downtown. "

City leaders in the coalition, known as Building One Pennsylvania, echoed concerns of state lawmakers, who have just begun the policy debate over how to fix the state's Act 47 program for financially distressed mid-size cities. They pointed to the growth of the middle class in suburbs, the shrinking tax base in their towns and the resulting deterioration of city infrastructure.

In Pittsburgh, a federal grant is paying to convert vacant industrial land to a new transportation corridor, so that families can live closer to the economic heart of the city.

"Pittsburgh's example shows us how our local partners are using federal help not just to connect families with affordable housing, transportation and jobs, but to drive the smart growth our regions need to compete in this global economy," said Donovan.

$170 million has been put into a fund to support such projects.