Inclusionary Zoning Public Hearing Reveals Strong Support From Residents

Jul 17, 2019

Residents from Lawrenceville told Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday that they were happy to see inclusionary zoning coming to their neighborhood. 

Some say the policy, which requires larger housing developments in the area to include affordable housing, will get the neighborhood back to what it was: diverse. 

Loretta Millender, who attended the hearing, said she has been in Lawrenceville for 77 years. She said the neighborhood has changed. Years after becoming a new urban hotspot, Lawrenceville seems to be mostly white now. 

"We need affordable housing," she said. "This will ... let every person that wants to buy a house in there [be able to] buy a house in Lawrenceville, bring the community back to what it was. I could look out the door and my neighbor was white, my other neighbor was Polish, someone else was Afro-American. Our children would play together, they went to school together. We do not need an all-white school or an all-black school; we do not need an all-white neighborhood or all-black neighborhood."

Millender was one of dozens of residents who endorsed inclusionary zoning to six councilors on hand to hear comments on the approach. The rule requires housing developers working in Lawrenceville -- which is being used as a testing ground for the approach -- to have at least 10 percent of their housing be affordable to low-income residents if a project has 20 or more units. 

Only one speaker at the afternoon hearing opposed the measure: Brandon Mendoza, the executive director of NAIOP Pittsburgh, an association of commercial real-estate developers. He warned that the zoning rule was already prompting developers to scale back their plans for the area

"At least three projects that I am aware of that have been either stopped or that were going to be mixed-use but have gone to office-only," he said. "Or they're staying below the 20-apartment threshold." 

Mendoza said NAIOP supports affordable housing. But he said a better approach would be to provide tax subsidies to reward those who provide affordable housing. 

Councilor Deb Gross, who represents Lawrenceville and sponsored the ordinance, said she has not heard criticism from developers in Lawrenceville -- but she has heard criticism from outside of the district. 

"I have heard from other developers in other parts of the region who it does not apply to," she said. "They were ideologically opposed." 

Gross said that she has heard from many residents who are not in her district who would like the ordinance to apply to their neighborhood. 

Council will preliminarily vote on the ordinance on Wednesday. It could be finally ratified as soon as next week.