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City Council gives preliminary OK to expanding affordable-housing zoning rule

Avery Keatley
90.5 WESA

On Wednesday, Pittsburgh City Council preliminarily approved a bill that will expand inclusionary zoning to Bloomfield and Polish Hill neighborhoods.

The zoning rules require developers of projects with 20 units or more to make at least 10% of them affordable to people who make less than the area's median income. The policy has already been implemented in Lawrenceville, and council's vote sets the table for an expansion that will include nearby Bloomfield and Polish Hill.

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Community advocates in those neighborhoods say they have been seeing price pressures similar to those in Lawrenceville. And councilor Deb Gross, who represents the area and who introduced the bill, said the zoning rules have been a topic of discussion for years.

"While this isn't the only policy and too for them, this is definitely a tool they've been long ready for," she said.

Several speakers gave their support to the bill on Wednesday. John Rhoades, of the Polish Hill Civic Association, said the neighborhood needs the zoning requirements because community members are being priced out.

"The median sale price in the neighborhood from 2015 to 2018 has more than tripled from $67,500 to $217,500," he said. "Many neighbors know someone who has been displaced from the home they are renting, or priced out of the opportunity to own in their neighborhood."

Other speakers worried that the bill does not go far enough, saying that affordable housing units should have a larger share of new projects than the 10% share. Use of the zoning tool will likely expand: Mayor Ed Gainey has said the zoning requirements should be applied citywide.

For now, Council is set to take a final vote on the Bloomfield/Polish Hill extension next week.