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By Mark Belko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Mayor Bill Peduto has reached a deal to keep affordable housing units at Crawford Square, one of the city’s most celebrated residential developments, after a potential sale put them in jeopardy.

The administration acted after learning in November that the Hill District complex was on the market to be sold and that 143 of the 348 units could end up being converted from low-income to market-rate with the expiration of existing covenants.

Mr. Peduto, stressing the need to maintain affordable housing in a critical area of the city, immediately wrote to owners McCormack Baron Salazar and AIG urging them to either stop the sale or to structure it in a way that maintained the low-income units.

Out of that emerged the agreement that not only will keep the 143 units as affordable for another 30 years but could make them available to more lower-income families with action by the city Housing Authority, which meets today.

McCormack Baron will buy out AIG and remain owner. The authority board is expected to vote on whether to put $6 million into the deal to help fill gaps in the financing. The authority also will provide 40 to 60 project-based vouchers for Crawford Square to enable residents at or below 30 percent of the area median income to afford units. Before, units were accessible only to those at 50 percent to 60 percent of the area median.

In addition, the city Urban Redevelopment Authority, which has had a stake in the development since it was created in the early 1990s, has agreed to restructure an estimated $14 million in debt related to it.

Mr. Peduto, who has been wrestling with affordable housing issues in East Liberty and elsewhere, said it was critical to maintain low-income units at Crawford Square, given efforts to redevelop the former Civic Arena site and other parts of the Hill.

“This is a linchpin decision that helps to build the trust between the community and city hall,” he said.

Had the low-income units not been saved, “trust would have been lost and opportunities would have been limited,” not only at the arena site but elsewhere in the Hill.

Vincent R. Bennett, McCormack Baron president, said, “We think Crawford Square, beyond being successful as a project, meant a lot to the community in terms of affordability.”

McCormack Baron has been selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins to develop 1,200 units of housing on arena property, with 20 percent of them affordable to those making 60 percent to 80 percent of the area median. One Hill District group has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, charging that the percentages would exclude most African-American and low-income households.

Date Published: 
Thursday, January 28, 2016

 

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