Homes for All PGH letter to the editor: The PG is wrong about housing affordability

TLE published in the Post Gazette 5/16/16

The PG is wrong about housing affordability

The April 29 editorial “Livable for All” rightfully acknowledged the importance of securing affordable housing for everyone in Pittsburgh, but the PG editorial board clearly bought the official narrative. The editorial says, “Affordable housing has been built … in East Liberty … and it is planned for the Penguins’ redevelopment of the Civic Arena site in the Lower Hill District.” Both of these statements are misleading if not downright incorrect.

East Liberty has had a dramatic net loss of affordability. Nearly 1,000 deep-subsidy apartments have been destroyed and replaced with an equal number of “market rate” units. The few “affordable” units that have been produced are short-term and shallow subsidy.

In the Lower Hill development, the “affordable” one-bedroom apartments will cost $1,000 a month! The Penguins have used fuzzy math, asserting that an apartment affordable at 80 percent of area median income (AMI) is sufficient. However, 80 percent of AMI leaves the majority of our city out.

Pittsburgh’s “AMI” is determined across a seven-county metropolitan area. The median income of city residents is only about 70 percent of that number, and, due to systemic racism, the median income for black families in Pittsburgh is only about 40 percent. The data show that Pittsburghers making at or below 30 percent AMI ($24,300 for a family of four) are the most vulnerable to eviction and displacement. This includes many people working full-time jobs.

If the goal of the city were genuinely to maintain Pittsburgh’s diversity and livability for everyone, we would require all developers to provide some units that are affordable (meaning that tenants pay no more than 30 percent of their income on housing) for households earning 30 percent AMI and below — especially developers, like the Penguins, that are receiving massive public subsidies.

I’m a member of Homes for All Pittsburgh. We’re distressed by our city co-opting the language of affordability and fairness while actively supporting development that further marginalizes native Pittsburghers.

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