The City of Pittsburgh is one step closer to possibly raising millions of dollars for affordable housing development through the issuance of bonds.
After Mayor Ed Gainey last week announced the effort to use bonds to borrow funds, the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority [URA] board approved the plan to support unspecified programs to preserve and create affordable housing. The board on Thursday approved the issuance of revenue bonds of up to $42 million and to cooperate with the city to accept funding of $2.5 million per year for 25 years to pay off the bond debt.
City Council must now pass legislation to trigger the initiatives.
During last week’s announcement, Gainey said that legislation would be introduced to council and that the bond would bring in about $25 million to $40 million over three years.
According to the URA’s resolution, the bond proceeds would then be used by the URA to bolster new and existing affordable housing programming serving Pittsburgh.
During Gainey’s announcement, Chief Economic Development Officer Kyle Chintalapalli said the city hadn’t yet decided on which nonprofit groups to fund with the money. Chintalapalli chairs the URA board.
“We’re all in agreement that we’re open to robust conversations about how these dollars are spent but first we need to secure them and that will take some time,” said City Councilman Daniel Lavelle, who is also a URA board member and made his comments during the board’s meeting.
“I’m asking City Council not to procrastinate but to move on [bond] bills and move it forward,” he said. “After that we can have a robust conversation on how it’s spent.”
According to the resolution, the estimated time to issue the bonds and receive the proceeds will be three to five months.
Loan advances Bedford Dwellings revamp
The city’s oldest public housing development, Bedford Dwellings, will be the site of new construction regardless of the outcome of the highly competitive federal Choice Neighborhoods grant process.
While the grant would provide $50 million toward reconstruction of all 411 current units, the URA board approved plans to build 123 units as townhomes on an empty lot in the Hill District’s Crawford-Roberts area. The board approved a no-interest loan of up to $2 million through its Rental Gap Program to go to an affiliate of the chosen developer, TREK Development Group. The biggest portion of the $57.5 million in financing for the 123 units would come through Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.
Once completed, 99 units will be rented to tenants making no more than 30%, 50% or 60% of the Area Median Income. Ninety of those 99 units will hold Project-Based Vouchers that guarantee affordability and will serve as one-for-one replacement housing for residents living in the Somers Drive units at the current Bedford Dwellings complex.
“This kind of housing is critical,” said URA board member Lindsay Powell.
Construction is expected to begin later this year and the URA anticipates it will take 20 months to complete with expected occupancy in the summer or fall of 2025.
Penguins permanent in Shadyside
The Pittsburgh Penguins will soon be the new owner of a seasonal indoor hockey rink in Shadyside.
The team is buying the Hunt Armory, a National Historic Landmark, from the URA for $2 million.
Since 2021, the URA has licensed the armory to the Penguins to operate the rink.
The armory served as the home for units in the Army National Guard until 2013. In 2016, the URA acquired the armory.
“We need to provide more opportunities to teach kids about hockey,” said Kevin Acklin, president of business operations for the Penguins. “We’re trying to step up and do the right thing. Heretofore there was no other sheet of ice suitable for hockey except [PPG Paints Arena]. That’s unacceptable if we’re working with community leaders to build greater equity and more opportunities for city youth.”
Through the years, the armory has served a number of purposes, from hosting American presidents to serving as a concert venue for Led Zeppelin in 1969.
It now serves as home to the Penguins diversity and community programming, as well as a place for public skating and hockey.
First grants for Avenues of Hope
Three years after the city unveiled plans to invest in business districts in seven mostly-Black neighborhoods, the URA approved its first round of grant applicants.
In 2021, City Council earmarked $7 million to the URA, from the city’s American Rescue Plan allocation, for use in the Avenues of Hope initiative.
After receiving 45 applications, the URA selected 20 organizations in the seven areas that will receive grants totaling $2,425,958. The URA board approved the funding.
“I’m so excited and honored to be here for this opportunity, I want to clap my hands,” said Lateresa Blackwell, clapping her hands.
Blackwell’s business, Avenue Cafe Premier and Day Care Center, will be receiving up to $190,000 as part of the program. She said she plans on turning a “vacant, blighted site” into a day care center for about 100 children and to hire 16 people.
“This has been such a long journey,” Blackwell said. “I can’t wait until we can celebrate all that’s going to take place in this corridor.”
This round of grants includes businesses from all seven corridors but some neighborhoods are receiving more dollars than others, with the Hill District’s Centre Avenue receiving the most funding and Chartiers Avenue in the West End receiving the least in this round.
The initiative will now open a second round of applications with a deadline of July 31. Another two rounds of applications will run through the rest of the year with deadlines of Sept.30 and Dec. 31
“This is a good example of American Rescue Plan funds being put to work for the benefit of communities,” said Chintalapalli.
Eric Jankiewicz is PublicSource’s economic development reporter and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ericjankiewicz.
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