July 31, 2016

Pittsburgh: Stop 1 for the Millennial Trains Project

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By Rachel Reilly Carroll, Enterprise Community Loan Fund

The Secret’s out – Pittsburgh Is a Great Place to Live!

Pittsburgh’s public transportation system, affordability, and potential for social mobility have made it one of the nation’s most livable cities, and people are flocking to the city to take advantage of the job market and escape the high cost of living in bigger East Coast cities like New York and Philadelphia. The growth of the tech sector and jobs at high-profile companies like Google and Uber are attracting new residents to Pittsburgh. Developers are responding to meet the demands of this new population, and once-affordable homes are being turned into a new Whole Foods.

But It’s Expensive If You Live in a Transit Desert.

The East End’s revitalization has negatively effected some residents, including those who were forced to leave their homes at Penn Plaza. Pittsburgh’s Mayor William Peduto recently said, “For the first time in decades, Pittsburgh is facing the challenges of managing growth instead of decline, and providing affordable housing to all is likely the most pressing challenge we have.” To begin to address this challenge, he formed an Affordable Housing Task Force which delivered its recommendations in May.

For Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable residents, the rising cost of housing has pushed them into transit deserts where they are forced to spend more on transportation costs. A study recently found that 82 percent of affordable housing residents in Pittsburgh spend more than 15 percent of their income on transportation. This problem is illustrated best in communities like Penn Hills where a growing number of low-income residents face significant challenges around access to transit.

The Future of Transportation

For the majority of residents in the region, public transit is a top priority. The Regional Transportation Alliance of Southwestern Pennsylvania (RTA) is currently facilitating an ongoing discussion to help the region “imagine how life would be different if we had a better transportation network, one that connected people and jobs and communities.” The RTA’s Steering Committee is comprised of elected officials and heads of big business. While in town, I am meeting with a more grassroots alliance – Pittsburgh for Public Transit – and I am curious to hear their opinion on the RTA’s efforts to build public support for future transportation projects.

Join me as I explore Pittsburgh on July 31 and August 1 by following @RachelReillyC and @MakeRoomUSA on Twitter and Instagram. I am spending most of my time in the East End, talking with advocates from Pittsburgh for Public Transit and visiting East Liberty and the Penn Mathilda Apartments.

 
 

“No defined deliverable”. I said that phrase so many times this week, but had no idea how freeing it would feel. I don’t remember the last time I started a project without an ultimate goal in mind. I’ll be traveling w @millennialtrain to #Pittsburgh 》#Chicago 》#KansasCity 》#Albuquerque 》#LosAngeles , stopping in every city to talk with residents about how their communities are changing. I am letting the trip inform the work. So, in honor of one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies – I gotta go see about a crisis. @makeroomusa @openpossibilities #MakeRoomUSA #MTPtrain #NBCUniversal #PGH #CHI #KCMO #ABQ #LA #affordablehousing #publictransit #communities #BringOpportunityHome

A photo posted by Twitter: @RachelReillyC (@rachelreillyc) on

East Liberty Transit Center

In 2012 and 2014, the East Liberty and Larimer neighborhoods were awarded two large federal grants that are changing the face of the neighborhood. A $15 million TIGER grant was leveraged to construct the $137 million multimodal East Liberty Transit Center, and the Housing Authority received a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods grant to redevelop three acres of public housing and vacant lots into a mixed-income community. While the rebirth of East Liberty has generated economic growth, many question whether it is something to be celebrated because long-time residents and businesses are being pushed out due to rising costs and redevelopment

Penn Mathilda Apartments

Located in the heart of the East End, the Penn Mathilda Apartments is a new mixed-use building with 39 affordable homes – half are reserved for veterans – and artist space on the first floor. The property is located in the Bloomfield-Garfield neighborhood, sandwiched between East Liberty and the community of Lawrenceville where housing prices have risen 370 percent since 2000. The neighborhood is very walkable and has multiple public transit options for residents to utilize. The developer, ACTION-Housing, has invited me on a tour of Penn Mathilda, where they will share why they believe that connecting affordable homes and transit is key to the success of their residents.

 

Follow Along With Me

I am headed to Chicago next, so come back to Housing Horizons on August 1 to read about changes in the Logan Square neighborhood and Mayor Emanuel’s push for more transit-oriented development. You can also keep up with my trip on Instagram and Twitter at @RachelReillyC, @MakeRoomUSA and @MillenialTrain.

Photo courtesy of Millennial Trains Project

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