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Pittsburgh, PA, Aug. 30–Penn Plaza Support and Action Coalition (PPSA) would like to communicate its position on the East Liberty housing development proposed by City Councilman Ricky Burgess. We are pleased that our city government has acknowledged the need to amend their inadequate housing policies. We believe that giving a preference in new East Liberty housing developments to displaced former East Liberty residents is justice, making the new apartments affordable is necessary, and the creation of a civilian board to review all new developments in this city is wise. Their acknowledgment shows that when residents organize to fight for justice, the government feels the need to respond.

Unfortunately, we believe this proposal is a continuation of the failing City of Pittsburgh housing policies and practices that have led to a shortage of 21,000 affordable units, and will inevitably lead to the same mistakes and a deepening of the city’s housing crisis.  City residents need permanently affordable, not for-profit driven housing. They need housing that is not subject to arbitrary definitions of affordability. They need the security of true affordability and shielded from the threat of displacement. We are working to prevent a repeat of the Penn Plaza Apartments tragedy, and this new proposed development if it is not amended, may do just that.

We oppose this proposal on the following grounds:

  1. As usual, there has once again been no community engagement. No one directly affected by the dramatic changes in East Liberty was made aware of this proposal, let alone participated in any discussion. The lack of community engagement raises questions about the sincerity of the proposed civilian review board to look at proposed developments. The most impacted residents need to provide inputif development is to be fair and equitable.
  2. The proposal calls for only 30%-40% of the apartments to be affordable, and affordability is so loosely defined as to be meaningless. We believe all units should be affordable to low-to-moderate income residents, meaning that they should be paying no more than 30% of monthly income for rent.
  3. We are calling on the City to create a new concept of public and social housingin this city. The City must explore cooperative housing and continue its efforts around land trusts. We believe publically-funded housing developments should provide a pathway for renters to grow equity in tenant ownership.
  4. We cannot support any proposal that turns over public land to for-profit entities. PPSA is calling on the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, not for-profit developers, to join with the community in the development of this site. We are calling on the City to maintain ownershipand control of this site and the future homes to be built there.
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