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HUD awards $450,000 to Allegheny County Housing Authority for planning Hays Manor overhaul

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
The McKees Rocks Bridge is pictured in this file photo.

Allegheny County’s Housing Authority has been awarded almost half a million dollars from the federal government to help plan for the redevelopment of a McKees Rocks public housing complex.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the $450,000 Choice Neighborhoods planning grant last week. HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods grants involve both planning grants and implementation grants and are fairly competitive. This is the first such grant for the county’s housing authority.

The funds are aimed at “struggling neighborhoods with distressed public or HUD-assisted housing.”

“A central focus of the plan will be addressing the distressed, 138-unit Hays Manor public housing property,” according to a HUD summary of the project. “Arranged on a super-block in an isolated, industrial area, the property fails to meet the needs of the residents and the community. The Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant will position the community to create an ambitious plan that will revitalize Hays Manor, catalyze community improvements, and expand opportunities for residents.”

Hays Manor is among the county housing authority’s older properties. The three-story barracks-style brick walkups were constructed around 1950.

“It is obsolete, we believe,” said Frank Aggazio, the housing authority’s executive director.

The development is bordered on one side by a vacant brownfield that was a former railroad property and is behind an older strip mall. However, the property is also close to amenities such as a grocery store, downtown McKees Rocks, and some recent development there.

All 138 units would be replaced in any redevelopment, Aggazio said, though they would not necessarily all be replaced on that site.

He said meetings will start next month.

The grant aims to bring community together in the redevelopment planning.

“There's actually a huge community component, and that's really the essence of it, is that ultimately the plan that is developed is intended to be a plan for transformation, not just for the housing neighborhood that is the subject matter [of the grant], but actually the entire community around it,” said Taris Vrcek, executive director of the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation. “So ultimately, this is a community driven and community-led plan. It should reflect the wishes and desires and aspirations of the people that call McKees Rocks home.”

Officials from McKees Rocks borough could not be reached.

The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh is in the latter stages of an implementation grant in Larimer and East Liberty. It has received Choice Neighborhoods planning grants for Bedford Dwellings in the Hill District, and Allegheny Dwellings in Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.