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Identity & Community

New Lower Income Housing Offers Space for Former Foster Kids

Deanna Garcia
90.5 WESA
The building on the corner of Seneca and Fifth Ave will offer 23 units for low-income families. In the distance off to the right is the building that will offer housing to those who've aged out of the foster care system.

As you drive from Oakland to Downtown via Fifth Avenue, you still see many older buildings, but adding to the landscape now are two newly-constructed apartment buildings offering low-cost housing. One of the Uptown buildings is solely for people who have aged out of the foster care system.

“We have 24 young adults who will be moving into those units, and on the other side of the street we have 23 units that will available for working people with modest incomes,” said Larry Swanson, executive director of Action Housing.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Thursday for the two buildings. The Uptown Lofts building for former foster children has a dormitory-like feel when you walk in. All of the units are furnished and on the first floor there is a common room, laundry room and an exercise room. But living there does come with some requirements.

“They pay rent, they start with what they can afford, we build it up to full rent, it’s meant to be an 18 month program after which they have sufficient income to rent their own apartments,” said Swanson. “All of them are both working and involved in either education or job training program while they’re here.”

Housing and support services can help young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 who are no longer in the foster care system, but might have nowhere to go. This is the first such program in Pennsylvania and one of only a few in the U.S.

The other Uptown Lofts building will provide 23 permanent, affordable homes to individuals with low to moderate incomes. Swanson said the housing is coming along after two years of rising home prices and rents. That increase is good for the economy, he said, but not for those who struggle to make ends meet.

“People of modest incomes are under a lot of economic pressure to pay 30 to 40 percent more than they were paying a year or two ago, and it’s very hard for them to afford that,” said Swanson.

Uptown Lofts was built, in part, thanks to low-income housing tax credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority as well as funding from BNY Melon and lenders including the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Federal Home Loan Bank.

In addition to offering housing, the two buildings will serve as demonstration projects to compare different energy efficiency models. Action Housing officials said this will allow them to evaluate initial construction costs, on-going energy usage and maintenance costs which can help future development work.