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A Federal Pilot Program Allows Local Housing Authorities More Autonomy. Is That A Good Thing?

Irina Zhorov
90.5 WESA


As Selena Strothers walked through her new two-bedroom home, a subsidized public housing unit in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, she intoned one phrase over and over, as a mantra.

“I just love it,” she said.

“This is actually our first home," she said. "We’ve always lived in the projects or rented... where we had a slumlord or something.”

Strothers, her husband and her 14-year-old daughter moved in one year ago.

The home — and the neighborhood — still retain palpable newness. While work continues in the lower section of the development site, the upper part is completed. There, blocks are quiet and roomy, with stoops, neat landscaping and amazing city views.

The mixed-income development sits right where one of Pittsburgh’s first public housing projects used to spread out in a sea of barrack-style three-story brick buildings. President Roosevelt dedicated Terrace Village in 1940. James Strothers, Selena’s husband, lived in Addison Terrace, a section that had 734 units, in the 1970s, then with Selena until their move to the redeveloped neighborhood. He says Addison was like a bubble within the city, unconnected to the greater street grid.

“There [was] only one way in and one way out, so it was more like a trap to some people,” he said.

The trap was both physical and intangible. Addison was a hotspot of concentrated poverty and the Strothers say violence and crime were pervasive. They say it’s been quieter since the redevelopment. “We haven’t heard any gunshots, we haven’t seen any fights or anybody robbing,” Selena said, as her husband nodded along in agreement.

The development, renamed Skyline Terrace, was largely funded with Moving to Work dollars.

Read more of this reporton the site of our partner, Keystone Crossroads