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Inclusionary Zoning Becomes Permanent In Lawrenceville, Some City Officials Eye Expansion

Houses in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood on 38th Street.
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Houses in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood on 38th Street.

On today’s program: Inclusionary zoning, which requires some developments to create affordable housing units, will be a permanent requirement in Lawrenceville following a pilot project, now city leaders look to other parts of Pittsburgh; a public health and filmmaking collaboration looks at mental health in teenagers during the pandemic; and businesses across the state are deciding if to require their employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

City Council votes to make inclusionary zoning permanent
(0:00 - 6:30)

Pittsburgh City Council voted to make inclusionary zoning, a development policy requiring housing developers to make a certain number of units affordable for low income residents, permanent in Lawrenceville.

The two-year pilot program required developers to set aside 10% of units for low-income residents in projects containing more than 20 units.

Diamonte Walker, deputy executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, said she believes that inclusionary zoning has been successful in giving lower-income residents access to high-opportunity neighborhoods. She says it is a step in the right direction.

"Inclusionary zoning is not a panacea or a silver bullet, but it is a very important tool within the toolkit to preserve affordability here in the city," she says. "What Lawrenceville has done has shown us a way to more fully think through that model and how to expand that to other areas in the city that make sense."

Residents in neighborhoods like Bloomfield and Polish Hill have also expressed interest in inclusionary zoning, but Walker says what works in Lawrenceville may not work in lower-income neighborhoods like the Hill District.

"You don't want to have unintended consequences of disincentivizing market rate development because that provides a level of constriction of what's available in the market, and the demand for those units is increasing,” Walker says. “We could see an adverse impact on affordable housing more broadly."

Mayor Bill Peduto opposes implementing a citywide inclusionary zoning policy, but Ed Gainey, the presumed next mayor of the city, said he supports the initiative.

“I want to make sure that every housing project that comes before the city, affordability is already embedded into it,” Gainey told PublicSource in mid-May.

Teen films explore mental health
(6:35 - 17:00)

The University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health has been conducting mental health research through collaborative filmmaking. Lead researcher Dr. Sara Baumann set up a filmmaking research project with Pittsburgh teens just before the pandemic hit.

“As we went under lockdown, it became really clear that this project actually could go on and should go on to really further investigate mental health, even during the pandemic,” says Baumann.

Working with eight youth throughout the city, Baumann distributed cameras and trained the students virtually to use the equipment. They were asked to create films about mental health stressors and supports in their lives.

“The students had to get really creative inside the confines of their own homes, even create films that still allowed them to voice their experiences,” says Baumann.

One of the filmmakers, Ayala Rosenthal, entitled her short film “Chasing Happiness,” and used the project to explore how happiness is an unrealistic expectation to seek constantly.

Rosenthal says she was made more aware of mental health when a girl who, like Rosenthal, was from the Orthodox Jewish community, took her own life when Rosenthal was in tenth grade.

“That was the first time I had heard of suicide happening, really to anyone,” says Rosenthal. “I just felt like I needed to make a change, I needed to make sure that girls my age, in my community, felt supported and felt there was no stigma around mental health so they could feel comfortable with who they are.”

All of the films were screened virtually last Wednesday.

The possible drawbacks of employers requiring the COVID-19 vaccine
(17:05 - 22:30)

Federal government guidance says employers can require employees who do in-person work to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but by doing so, bosses could risk losing some staff.

Keystone Crossroads has this story of what happened when one Philadelphia doctor made the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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