Pittsburgh City Council seeks ways to increase availability of affordable housing

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The Pittsburgh City Council is seeking to expand the availability of accessory living units such as attic, basement and garage apartments and secondary structures built on existing properties, all in an effort to combat what he sees as an affordable housing crisis.

Legislation introduced last week by Councilman Deb Gross would require Mayor Ed Gainey’s administration to produce a report by the end of November outlining the existing number of accessory dwelling units in the city, the regulations that apply to them. apply, permit fees to build new ones and proposals to encourage development. new units.

Gross said detached accessory units, known as “backyard homes,” were common in the city. Some still exist today, but current zoning does not allow new ones to be built, she said.

“Many cities, in fact many states now, have allowed these structures,” Gross said, citing California, New Hampshire, Vermont, Oregon and Rhode Island as examples. “This is just the start of a conversation so the council can have more facts in front of them.”

The idea of ​​allowing — or even incentivizing — secondary suites comes as the city grapples with what officials have called a shortage of affordable housing options.

The legislation, referencing a 2016 Affordable Housing Task Force report, said the city had a shortfall of 14,896 affordable housing units available to residents earning 30% of the area’s median income. This figure “has undoubtedly increased since the start of the covid-19 pandemic”, says the legislation.

“It could be a piece of the puzzle for affordable housing,” said Councilman Anthony Coghill, co-sponsor of the legislation.

Coghill said residents could build affordable secondary suites in their backyards to bolster the city’s affordable housing stock. Having extra income from renting out these units could make people’s mortgages more affordable, and the extra structures could increase property values, he added.

Gross said she thinks the legislation could help older residents stay in their communities. They could move into secondary suites on a family member’s property or make staying in their own home more affordable by allowing them to rent additional accommodations to help cover costs.

The legislation could be ready for a final vote as early as next week.


Related:

• Pittsburgh officials seek an easier path to homeownership for residents

• Pittsburgh is considering solutions for homelessness, including tiny homes

• Affordable housing remains an issue for some in the Pittsburgh area despite efforts to address it, experts say


A spokesperson for the mayor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Council members said tackling affordable housing and homelessness in the city is a priority. Council President Theresa Kail-Smith recently suggested building tiny houses to provide homeless people with a safe place to stay.

In April, the city council voted to extend inclusionary zoning – which requires a portion of all housing developments to be designated as affordable housing – to the neighborhoods of Bloomfield and Polish Hills. Inclusive zoning is also in effect in Lawrenceville.

Still, Gross and other council members said local leaders need to find additional ways to increase the availability of affordable housing. Councilor Ricky Burgess suggested taking out bonds to fund additional housing and advocated for the provision of additional services to people who are homeless or moving into affordable housing.

Julia Felton is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Julia by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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