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Developers complete 36 affordable homes in Pittsburgh’s Homewood

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A recently completed duplex on Susquehanna Street in Homewood. Oxford Development and S&A Homes of State College recently completed construction of 36 housing units on Susquehanna and Tioga streets that will be available at below market rates.

Kimberly Burley becomes nostalgic when she talks about the aging and vacant duplex on Susquehanna Street in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood, almost directly across the street from her brand-new home.

“I was raised over in that house – 7319 and 7321 Susquehanna Street,” she said. “That was our family’s house. My grandmother bought it in 1967 and the whole family lived there. I got married in that house. Now I’m living right across the street.”

Her new home — she shares one half of a duplex — was among 36 housing units recently completed by Oxford Development and State College-based S&A Homes on scattered vacant lots owned by the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority along Tioga and Susquehanna streets. The developers and public officials met on Susquehanna on Thursday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of a duplex.

The duplexes and single-family homes are being offered to people who earn no more than 60 percent of Allegheny County’s area mean income. The mean is $38,580 for a family of four.

Residents leasing the units have an option to purchase them at below market rates after 15 years, according to Andy Haines, executive vice president of S&A Homes.

“The goal here is to pursue rental housing until the market stabilizes,” he said. “Then you can do home ownership. We look forward to doing more of these in the city of Pittsburgh.”

The $13 million project was funded through low income housing tax credits supplied by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and $700,000 in URA financing, according to Oxford Development.

Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing Task Force has estimated that the city has a shortage of more than 17,000 homes necessary for low-income residents.

Mayor Bill Peduto said the problem is financing. Banks have limits on how much the’re willing to will loan for affordable housing. Developers need subsidies such as low income tax credits and gap financing from the URA, Peduto said. He thanked the developers for their work.

The mayor on Wednesday outlined plans to reorganize the URA so that if focuses more on rebuilding depressed neighborhoods like Homewood, which is plagued with vacant lots and houses, many of which are owned by the URA and city. He said building affordable housing on vacant city lots fits into those plans.

“What we want to do … is prioritize more of this,” the mayor said. “The idea would be not waiting until a developer comes and knocks on the door… but starting with the members of the community and their vision, building out where we have properties, seeing that community plan put into a marketable idea and going to developers and saying ‘Hey guys, we’re willing to put $2 million into this. Who wants to bid on it.’”

Peduto said the city has not invested in neighborhoods like Homewood for 50 years.

“People struggled to stay in the city,” he said. “They watched as their family members and their neighbors moved to the suburbs. Now we’re seeing an interest in people coming back. Our goal is simple: To those who struggled through the bad times, your home is your home for the good times, and we’ll work with you in order to make that happen.”

Residents said they were thankful to have new housing.

“I love it,” said Catherine Johnson, 58. “My fiance is handicapped and this house is handicap accessible, so it meets his needs. It’s really very nice.”

Burley, 54, said she prayed for the opportunity to move back to her childhood street.

“I would come past here while they were building these, and I would drive up the street and say, ‘One of those is mine,’” she said.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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