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Pittsburgh officials are hopeful about their chances to rebuild Bedford Dwellings

Jake Savitz
90.5 WESA

Officials from the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, or HACP, say they are hopeful about their chances to win a $50 million grant to rebuild much of the Middle Hill. Board members for the Urban Redevelopment Authority echoed that confidence and voted to support the effort at their meeting Thursday.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s CHOICE implementation grant aims to rebuild distressed public housing and revitalize the surrounding neighborhood. The city and HACP want to overhaul Bedford Dwellings, one of the oldest public housing developments in the country.

“We all feel pretty good about our chances,” said Sam Williamson, a URA board member, “given the … incredibly successful implementation of the Larimer Choice Grant,” which was awarded by HUD in 2014. The $30 million grant paid for 334 units — a one-to-one replacement of affordable apartments as well as the addition of new market-rate apartments — and a new neighborhood park.

It’s a very competitive program, and HACP officials said buy-in from city government and agencies is crucial.

“We have a very strong application,” said JW Kim, HACP’s director of planning and development, adding that two of the initial phases have already been awarded tax credit financing. “[HUD] will see that the city of Pittsburgh is really serious and they are capable of fundraising.”

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The URA board voted to provide financial support and property sales to demonstrate its commitment. However, those projects would only move forward if HUD awards a CHOICE grant to the 411-unit Bedford Dwellings.

The effort was previously awarded a $500,000 planning grant in 2018. The multi-year effort worked with Bedford residents, community groups, and city agencies to create a vision for the neighborhood investment. If awarded, the grant would fund construction to replace all 411 low-income units, build new affordable and new market-rate units, support new businesses, and open new green spaces.

The application is due Jan. 11.

On Thursday, the URA board also approved a nearly $16 million operating budget for 2023. Most of the money goes to salaries and benefits, with the rest directed to administrative costs. The budget does not cover actually doing projects or running the agency’s programs and services.

Pittsburgh City Councilor and URA board member Daniel Lavelle emphasized that money is tight.

“We just don’t have all the resources necessary, … many, at times, will think, and even some of my colleagues think that we’re sort of just sitting on cash, and it’s just simply not the case.”

However, Lavelle said the agency would accomplish as much as possible with what it has.