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A Success In Lawrenceville, Inclusionary Zoning Rules Could Move Down The Street

A residential street in Bloomfield.
Avery Keatley
90.5 WESA
A residential street in Bloomfield.

One month after council permanently enshrined the use of a new affordable-housing tool in Lawrenceville, City Councilor Deb Gross is looking to extend the program just around the block — to Bloomfield and Polish Hill.

“I think it’s definitely good timing to do it there,” said Gross, referring to concerns that housing prices are on the rise.

On Tuesday, Gross introduced a bill to establish inclusionary zoning rules in the two neighborhoods. The rules require developers who build housing to set aside a portion of new homes to be sold -- and be affordable -- to people whose household earnings are beneath the area mean income. Lawrenceville’s program was established as a pilot program in 2019. It’s since been credited with creating 40 affordable units of housing in a neighborhood that has become a poster child for soaring home costs.

“All of Lawrenceville wishes we had done it earlier,” Gross said. “We hear a lot of stress from residents about affordability in Bloomfield, and people don’t realize that there are some larger sites in Polish Hill where there is interest in new construction.”

As with Lawrenceville, the zones would be initially established on an interim basis and designed to expire after 18 months. The zones can then be made permanent “so it is there for people to try things out for their neighborhood,” Gross said.

There have been calls to expand the use of the zoning designation beyond Lawrenceville, and Ed Gainey, the Democrats’ nominee to be Pittsburgh’s next mayor, has said he would favor establishing the rules citywide. But Gross says there will be plenty of time for public input, both at the council level and at the city’s Planning Commission, which will be the first stop in crafting the rules. Gross said the process would likely take around four months.

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.