URA allocates funds for new Homewood housing

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Nothing breeds success like success, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh is pleased to help Building United of Southwestern Pennsylvania and its Executive Director Rev. Samuel Ware continue the success it is having rebuilding Homewood.

BuildingTheFuture
BUILDING THE FUTURE—Executive Director Rev. Samuel Ware thanks the URA board for its continuing support of the Building United’s housing project in Homewood.

During its Sept. 17 meeting, the authority authorized more than $600,000 in funding for the second phase of Building United’s project to turn former Section 8 housing near the Faison Elementary School into for-sale homes.

The master plan calls for 30 homes, 10 have already been constructed, and of those, nine are sold and the 10th is under agreement. The URA action called for the transfer of six lots on Susquehanna Street to make way for four new homes.

“This has been a challenging project and the URA has been very helpful,” said Ware, pastor of Bethel AME in Monroeville. “We sold the first five units before they were even built. I’m confident we could sell all 10 in phase two just as quickly.”

Ware’s group began working on this project in 2003 as a means to address not only the blight in Homewood, but also the violence. They operated from a simple premise—if people have an ownership stake in the community, the community will flourish.

The first four houses built for phase two pointedly illustrates the change Ware has in mind as they will go on the site where more than 40 violence-ridden rental properties once stood. The city acquired them in a HUD foreclosure in 2004.

The new three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath homes feature a large porch, energy efficient appliances and detached garages. They are to be sold to buyers at or below 115 percent of the median area income. With a $30,000 “vanishing” second mortgage the units will sell for around $70,000.

“I’m seeing a lot of synergy, with this project, people looking to emulate the Harlem Children’s Zone, and the green incubator project,” said board member and state Sen., Jim Ferlo. “And I like that this is money for actual bricks and mortar, and building capacity, not administration.”

Board chair Yarone Zober was equally enthusiastic.

“This has a chance to be great,” he said. “I really don’t want the future of Homewood in the hands of a CMU student—which I was one. If I can help you build, I will. Finish these four, and let’s do 300 more.”

The jibe at students from Carnegie Mellon University was a reference to the Green Incubator project that Ferlo mentioned. It also received additional support from the board with a $100,000 increase in the application for state funding.

In July, the authority authorized $650,000 to renovate a former gas station at the intersection of Larimer Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard into an Environment and Energy Community Outreach Center. The center, which is being redesigned by CMU students, would serve as a gathering space for green building initiatives, vacant lot remediation, demonstrations, training and employment programs.

The board also authorized buying out Landmarks Community Capital’s loan on the East Liberty YMCA renovation project which has been modified from a condominium project to one involving market rental units. East Liberty Development Inc. now plans 34 units for the building constructed in1908.

Among other business, the board allocated additional funding for the Bakery Square project, new in-fill housing in Garfield, and for renovations to Children’s Hospital to create new space for a pediatric telemedicine and imaging center.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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