Wolf Brings Urban Policy Expertise

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s next governor knows all about distressed cities.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf spent 12 years as president of Better York, a nonprofit bent on revitalizing the city of York. In that role, he worked closely with a nationally prominent urban expert who promotes regional solutions for urban woes.

As he prepares to take office Jan. 20, Wolf said he wants to lead a statewide discussion about how the future of older cities such as Scranton, inner ring suburbs and the surrounding townships are interrelated.

“What I bring to this is a real appreciation for what cities do,” he said in an interview.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/wolf-brings-urban-policy-expertise-1.1803039

Residents Start To Move Into South Side Lofts Affordable Artists Complex In Bethlehem

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some residents have moved into a new affordable housing complex in South Side Bethlehem that includes the redevelopment of the former St. Stanislaus Church.

Residents have started to move into the South Side Lofts apartments at East Fifth and Atlantic streets while apartments next to the church on Hayes Street will be occupied starting next month, according to officials at Housing Development Corp. MidAtlantic, the apartments’ developer.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 46 apartments was held Tuesday. Read more about the project here.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2014/10/residents_start_to_move_into_s.html

Pittsburgh Study Shows City’s Vibrancy Has Returned

DSC01844Editor’s note:  We found this to be true during our visit there this summer. Pittsburgh has drastically changed over the last 10 years and the improvement is palpable.

Pittsburgh has transformed from an economically stagnant, transient city to “somewhere people want to come to and stay for a long time,” according to Doug Heuck, director of Pittsburgh Today.

A new report from the statistics-based project reflects this trend in increased home ownership, showing more residents are making the city their home.

The report shows the Pittsburgh region has the highest percentage of owner-occupied housing compared to 14 other metropolitan areas with comparable size and demographics, according to U.S. Census figures.

Factors like employment opportunities, education and housing have turned the city into “somewhere people want to come to and stay for a long time,” Mr. Heuck said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/10/18/Study-shows-Pittsburgh-s-vibrancy-has-returned/stories/201410180017

Changing Skyline: Subsidized Housing Deal May Benefit Developers More

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You could probably fit every unit of affordable housing being built in Philadelphia today inside one of the fancy glass skyscrapers going up in University City, and still have a couple of floors left over. That’s not because the new towers are so immense, but because the city produces so little subsidized housing for the poor and working class.

It wasn’t always that way. From the 1950s through the Clinton years, the federal government financed thousands of units of affordable housing. Though the results weren’t always well-designed, the programs did at least ensure the poor had places to live. But in the last decade, federal money dried up and cities were left to their own devices. It’s no accident that wage stagnation has become a hot issue as low-cost housing has become harder to find.

So, as with many urban improvements these days, cities have begun to look to the private sector to pick up the slack. The strategy is called “inclusionary housing,” and it involves trading zoning bonuses for apartments.

Developers get to put up taller, denser towers. Cities get a bunch of units in the new buildings that can be rented at below-market rates. Low-wage workers get fabulous apartments with skyline views.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/living/20141017_Changing_Skyline__Subsidized_housing_deal_may_benefit_developers_more.html#TCCsm4dMWl0uHb5b.99

High Hopes For $38 Million Project In Pleasantville

Map of New Jersey highlighting Atlantic County

Map of New Jersey highlighting Atlantic County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PLEASANTVILLE, N.J. – This down-on-its-luck stepsister town to neighboring Atlantic City has struggled economically for decades, languishing without a redevelopment plan or the ability to attract private investment.

But a $38 million project that includes two apartment buildings and retail space on a vacant Main Street block is expected to set the cornerstone for economic growth and expanded development in the Atlantic County city, according to Jacqueline Amado-Belton, economic development director for the City of Pleasantville.

“We feel like we have borne the brunt of a lot of issues that have spilled over from Atlantic City over the years,” Amado-Belton said. “In terms of perception and other factors, it’s been a struggle and a challenge to get to this point.”

The Pleasantville City Center, expected to be completed by next summer, will add 135 apartments and 18,000 square feet of retail space and will be bordered by Main Street, Washington Avenue, Milan Avenue, and South Second Street.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/20141006_High_hopes_for__38_million_project_in_Pleasantville.html#ZlSiLKCqFZQAdj9H.99

Wilkes-Barre Zoning Board Approves Changes Requested By Housing Develoopment Corp

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — About 30 people protested the proposed housing project in the Rolling Mill section of the city, offering testimony, petitions and heartfelt concerns, but the Zoning Hearing Board unanimously approved all four changes requested by Housing Development Corporation MidAtlantic of Lancaster.

As the crowd filtered out of council chambers at City Hall Thursday evening, you could hear cries of “It’s not fair,” and “You live there,” from residents of McCarragher, Moyallen, Dana and Grove streets — all to be impacted by the 56-unit rental complex to be built by HDC.

Attorney Charles McCormick, zoning hearing board solicitor, said there is a 30-day window for appeals to be filed on the decision. Once that is exhausted, HDC will then bring a detailed land development plan to the city’s planning commission for approval.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/50170995/Rolling-Mill-development-moves-forward#.U_YbQPRDsxI

Bethlehem Affordable Artist Housing Nearly Ready For Occupancy

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lofted ceilings. A rooftop deck. Bird’s-eye views of the former Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces.

An on-site art gallery. Personal studio space. Central air conditioning, walk-in closets and modern kitchen and bathroom facilities.

While it sounds like they could be, these are not features of a new high-end apartment complex in Bethlehem. In fact, these amenities are part of a new 46-unit affordable apartment complex set to open on Bethlehem’s South Side in October.

“We have people come on tours because they can’t believe this is affordable housing,” said Jolene Weaver, corporate marketing manager for Housing Development Corp. MidAtlantic, the apartments’ developer.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2014/08/bethlehem_affordable_artist_ho.html

Housing Development Planned In Wilkes-Barre

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — In a few months, the vacant building on Dana Street that formerly housed First Hospital will be gone. A housing development is planned in its place.

The Wyoming Valley Health and Education Foundation is demolishing properties on Dana, Grove and McCarragher streets in the Rolling Mill Hill neighborhood with plans to donate the land to a Lancaster-based development company.

Housing Development Corporation MidAtlantic plans to build 56 units of affordable rental housing in the area.

The properties include 133 and 149 Dana St., 66-68 Grove St. and 112 McCarragher St., according to Gerard T. O’Donnell, a consultant working with the Wyoming Valley Health and Education Foundation, which plans to demolish the structures.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/housing-development-planned-in-w-b-1.1724520

Pittsburgh-Allegheny County SEA Moves Ahead On Redevelopment Of Civic Arena Site

Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority board has taken another step in preparing the former Civic Arena site for redevelopment.

Board members authorized a $555,685 contract with Michael Baker Jr. today to do final design work for four roads — Centre Avenue, Washington Place, Bedford Avenue, and Crawford Street — that border the 28-acre site in the lower Hill District.

Plans call for those existing roads to be repaved, with upgraded signals, intersections and sidewalks at an estimated cost of $12 million.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/07/10/Pittsburgh-Allegheny-County-SEA-moves-ahead-on-redevelopment-of-Civic-Arena-site/stories/201407100268#ixzz375Nwumqr

Tiny Houses Offer Big Potential In Neighborhoods Like Garfield

Locator map with the Garfield neighborhood in ...

Locator map with the Garfield neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania highlighted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tiny houses could play a big role in rebuilding Garfield by filling some of the neighborhood’s hundreds of vacant lots and boosting homeownership in a more affordable way, officials say.

Downtown nonprofit cityLAB intends to build a 210-square-foot home on a small parcel between two-story homes on North Atlantic Avenue, a couple of blocks from bustling Penn Avenue. Leaders of the group hope more will follow.

“There’s no such thing as a small building project,” said Chad Chalmers, an architect with Sewickley-based Wildman Chalmers Design LLC who is working on the Garfield project, noting that construction of a tiny house must go through the same steps as a traditional one — in some cases, more requirements.

An added step for Garfield’s tiny house could be to seek a variance to a section of Pittsburgh’s building code that requires any newly constructed home to have an off-street parking space. In this case, the 180-square-foot space would be nearly as large as the home and eat up one-fifth of the property.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/6376279-74/tiny-garfield-square#ixzz36oAU7ATO
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Pittsburgh’s Commuters Are Walking The Walk

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suzy Waldo can never call off work with the excuse that her car won’t start. And she can’t really justify showing up late for her shifts, either.

Ms. Waldo lives five blocks from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh South Side where she is the branch manager, and is among the relatively small but growing number of Pittsburghers who make their daily commutes by foot.

A new Census report looking at data from the past five years ranks Pittsburgh third among large cities with commuters who walk to work.

Five years of data from the American Community Survey show 11.3 percent of Pittsburghers commute by walking — ahead of New York City’s 10.3 percent, and just behind Boston, at 15.1 percent, and Washington, D.C., at 12.1 percent.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/05/15/Pittsburgh-s-commuters-are-walking-the-walk/stories/201405150327#ixzz31nn7F8Bt

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Forbes Magazine Ranks Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 8th Best Place To Raise A Family

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Diamond City Partnership Executive Director Larry Newman said Friday he wishes he could be more enthusiastic about the Forbes Magazine ranking that put the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metropolitan area as the eighth best place in the U.S. to raise a family.

“It’s difficult to get enthusiastic about these types of rankings because they come out a lot,” Newman said. “And they’re becoming increasingly more frequent. But don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that we’re being recognized in a positive way.”

The Forbes list had this to say about the region:

“One of the lowest median family incomes ($42,000) among U.S. metro areas, but crime is low, commutes are short and housing is affordable (87 percent of area homes are affordable at the median income level).

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1337182/Region-gets-high-praise-from-Forbes

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Court Documents: Sherman Hills Sale Price Tops $16M

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The current owners of the troubled Sherman Hills Apartments in Wilkes-Barre will receive more than $16 million should a proposed sale be finalized this month, according to court documents filed Tuesday in Luzerne County Court.

Family members of a murder victim are trying to block the sale or have the sale proceeds placed in escrow, claiming the sale of the low-income housing project would make the complex “judgement proof.”

On Tuesday, lawyers for Sherman Hills filed their response, saying the sale should be allowed to proceed.  The sales agreement was attached to the response and revealed Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Park Management, the complex’s owner, will be paid $16.2 million from the sale.

Survivors of murder victim Shantique Goodson, 27, fatally shot at the complex on Nov. 11, 2013, are seeking an injunction to block the sale, or place the sale proceeds in escrow, until the lawsuit plays out. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday morning in Luzerne County Court.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/court-documents-sherman-hills-sale-price-tops-16m-1.1664522

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‘Affordability Gap’ In Lancaster County Widens For Renters

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The typical renter in Lancaster County is finding it harder to afford a basic apartment here, a new study shows.

The so-called “affordability gap” in Lancaster County has hit a record high, according to the latest report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The gap is the difference between the average renter’s hourly wage and what he needs to earn to comfortably afford the basic apartment.

According to the coalition, the average renter here earns $11.78 an hour.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/business/local_business/affordability-gap-in-lancaster-county-widens-for-renters/article_01bfb1ee-b39c-11e3-aa3f-001a4bcf6878.html

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Clarke Unveils Plan For Affordable Housing In Gentrifying Philly Neighborhoods

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Council President Darrell Clarke today unveiled a plan to build 1,500 affordable housing units in gentrifying neighborhoods like Francisville, Point Breeze and Mantua by redeveloping city-owned vacant land or tax-delinquent properties.

One thousand of the units will be rentals and would take advantage of two underused financing tools, Clarke said: operational subsidies for affordable housing from the Philadelphia Housing Authority and a tax credit from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

The city would also need to issue a $100 million bond to be paid for by the Housing Trust Fund, which currently supports other programs.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/cityhall/Clarke-unveils-plan-for-affordable-housing-in-gentrifying-neighborhoods.html#o1ssZ08Syqt3eBBK.99

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Senior Housing Plan Presented In Norristown For Vacant Montgomery Hospital Building

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN, PA — The consensus of public opinion Tuesday night about a proposal to build 100 independent-living apartments for seniors and a senior support building at the former Montgomery Hospital site on Powell Street was largely positive.

More than 25 Norristown residents heard the first public presentation of the plans by the Elon Group of Fort Washington at the Montgomery County Human Services Center from Francis Vargas, vice president of the Elon Group, and several executives from Einstein Healthcare Network (EHN), which owns the 365,000-square-foot, seven-story building and 3.7-acre parcel.

“The proposal is not much different from last year as far as the senior housing,” said Norristown Councilwoman Linda Christian. “Last year the proposal was for the overall, same amount of units that was denied by the funders.”

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140213/senior-housing-plan-presented-in-norristown-for-vacant-montgomery-hospital-building

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Dozens Turn Out To Hear About Possible York Artist-Housing Project

Map of York County, Pennsylvania, United State...

Map of York County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Wednesday, Hardway was among the dozens who turned out to hear more about a possible artist-housing project in the city. A henna artist and trained vocalist, Hardway said she is intrigued by the idea of living among other creative people.

But, if the Artspace York project becomes a reality, Hardway wants to be sure its developers include accessibility in their plans — even if she’s not the one who benefits from it.

Hardway said she made that clear when she took a survey, which launched online Wednesday, to gauge the potential viability of a project in York.

Artspace is a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that formed in 1979 with the goal of providing long-term affordable housing for creative people.

Read more: http://www.yorkdispatch.com/breaking/ci_24972229/dozens-turn-out-hear-about-possible-york-artist?utm_source=hootsuite&utm_campaign=hootsuite

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3 Pittsburgh Construction Projects Hang In The Balance in 2014

Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This year could be a pivotal one in the development of the former Civic Arena site in the lower Hill District, the LTV Coke Works in Hazelwood and the Strip District produce terminal.

Both the arena redevelopment and the Buncher Co.’s plans for the produce terminal not only have the potential to generate drama but could pose the first development-related challenges for Mayor-elect Bill Peduto, who takes office Monday.

Nearly two years after the Civic Arena came down, 2014 could bring the first wave of new development to the site, which is considered among the most valuable pieces of real estate in the region.

But there’s a potential fight brewing.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/01/03/3-city-construction-projects-hang-in-the-balance-in-2014/stories/201401030104#ixzz2pMlbpeNL

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Philadelphia Could Make History With Land Bank Plan

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighti...

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighting planning districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe City Councilman Bobby Henon said it best on Thursday: “Right now, we have opportunity to make historic changes.”

Henon, chairman of Council’s Public Property Committee, was talking about the bill to create a land bank.

It’s a system Atlanta, Cleveland, St. Louis, and other cities have adopted and that supporters say could help cure the blight haunting many Philadelphia neighborhoods.

But with history at stake, the proposal seems stuck

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20131125_Philadelphia_could_make_history_with_land_bank_plan.html#u0ZlRfmlg53GFGwF.99

Housing Crisis: Rising Prices, Fewer Options, Long Waiting Lists Make Finding A Livable Space Difficult

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jessica Castro in September moved herself, her daughter and her son, ages 10 and 9, into a one-bedroom apartment, sacrificing elbowroom to save on rent.

“What I need is a three-bedroom,” said Castro, 36, but it wasn’t in her budget. Even two-bedroom units were beyond her means as she worked 40 hours a week plus a second part-time job.

She now frets over how long her kids will tolerate the tight squeeze.

Thousands of renters across Lancaster County can identify with Castro. They’re priced out of decent, right-sized housing and settle for cramped, substandard quarters.

Experts warn that the shortage of affordable units is at the point that working people will leave the county to find a place to live.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/917486_Housing-crisis–Rising-prices–fewer-options–long-waiting-lists-make-finding-a-livable-space-difficult.html#ixzz2l1Rw7Kn6