New homes renewing Homewood

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A year and a half ago Bryan and Julie McCabe and their daughters Kyra and Sierra were living in Wexford looking to buy a home closer to his job in Pittsburgh—now he can walk to work.

At that same time, demolition of the Garfield Heights Apartments forced Tiffany McGinnis, her son Germal McCray Jr. and daughter Tayshia McCray to search for a new home. Now they are neighbors—in Homewood. Though neither planned it, they are helping to rebuild the neighborhood, while they build their lives as homeowners on Susquehanna Street.

NewNeighbors
NEW NEIGHBORS—Homeowners on Susquehanna Street in Homewood enjoy a beautiful fall day from their front porches. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

They were among the first four families to buy in what will eventually be a 30-home complex within walking distance of Faison Elementary School. Of the 10 built to date, all are occupied.

The homes are the brainchild of Rev. Samuel Ware, who is changing what used to be one of the city’s worst neighborhoods to a hidden gem. His nonprofit, Building United of Southwestern Pennsylvania has turned a once violence and drug ridden Section 8 row housing into a model community.

McGinnis said she hadn’t even considered living in Homewood when she first found out she’d have to move.

“I didn’t want to rent so I contacted a Realtor,” she said. “First she showed me two houses in the Hill District. I wasn’t even thinking about Homewood but she said let me show you something. I saw it, and liked it and bought it.”

What she bought was a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house with a detached garage, energy efficient appliances and windows, a porch and a small yard. And the price was right.

“It’s cheaper than the rent on a three bedroom apartment,” she said. “I’m really happy with my choice and I’d recommend buying one of these homes to anyone who wants to be in the area. I love the street, and I like my neighbors.”

McCabe said much the same thing, once they decided on a new home rather than a “fixer-upper,” it was a deal that was too good to pass up. McCabe is the mentoring director for Northway Christian Communities, which works with children at the Faison School, just a few blocks away.

“We wanted to be close to my work, so we were looking at options and we saw these and called the realtor,” he said. “That’s when I met Rev. Ware. He’s doing some great work here in Homewood. And we felt it was important to support his vision, lead by example and hopefully others will follow our lead.”

Though he didn’t qualify for all the incentives, McCabe said he got a fantastic deal. The homes list for $130,000, but with a “vanishing” second mortgage and other income-related subsidies, from the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Pittsburgh Housing Development Corp., the price can be as low as $70,000.

“We have friends in older houses with utility bills that are insane,” he said. “And a house like this in the North Hills is $300,000 to $400,000, easy.”

That’s one reason Realtor Carol Foster Allen says people are coming from all over to live in the neighborhood, and why the homes are selling like crazy.

“We’re building four more starting in the spring—three are already sold,” she said. “Only two of the families so far are from Homewood, the rest are from Point Breeze, Garfield, all over the city—even Wexford.”

“It’s about rebuilding the community, getting rid of the violence and blight. And it’s working,” said Rev. Ware. “We could build 10 or 15 of these at a time and still sell them. I’d like to build 300.”

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