Friday, September 20, 2013

Weekender: Affordable Housing in District 6 and Roughhousing in District 7


In a pair of articles in the P-G about the Penguins' intentions for the Lower Hill, some jargon regarding "affordable housing" was thrown around. It's worth explaining.

"AMI" stands for Area Median Income, in this case for the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area.  An affordable monthly rent, including utilities, at 100% of AMI is considered to be 30% of the monthly median income of the average Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area resident.

The hitch is, the average City of Pittsburgh household makes less than that; the average Black Pittsburgh household makes still less than that; and the average Hill District household makes even less than that.

The Penguins are proposing to use "reasonable good-faith efforts" to designate 20% of new Lower Hill housing as affordable, whereas the Hill District Master Plan would have 30% set in stone to be affordable. But the wider gulf is this: according to data compiled by RHLS, even the Penguins' idea of an "affordable" rent at just 80% AMI would come to $977 monthly for a 1-BR, $1,172 for a 2-BR and on up. Which is consistent with what the Penguins are admitting in describing a development geared only towards affluent young professionals.

And so, vanishingly few African-Americans in the region would come close to being able to live in that new Lower Hill.  However, using the 50% and 30% AMI thresholds in the Hill District Master Plan, the 20% or 30% portion of "affordable" rental units would drop to $611 and $367 respectively for a 1-BR; or $732 and $440 for a 2-BR.

We can accomplish this without compromising financial viability. The Penguins' selected developers are actually very good at it. The Housing Authority can utilize its pool of vouchers or its CDBG allocations to make up a portion of the rent gap, the URA can do roughly the same thing, and the City can utilize other Inclusionary Zoning incentives. That is, if anyone has an interest in being inclusionary.


Internet Bird Collection
Speaking of the Housing Authority:

Decrying "steep price tags and an increasing number of contracts" at the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley this week asked federal overseers to provide him with documentation of the agency's salaries, consulting arrangements and travel expenses. (P-G, Rich Lord)

The Senator now references prior P-G investigations on seemingly exorbitant legal and consulting contracts at the Authority.

It's funny. Way back when it appeared as though billboard permits were providing the combustable material for scandalous meltdowns, it turned out that HUD's arm-twisting of the Housing Authority might have quietly sparked more of the drama. It is not inconceivable that Chuck Grassley is trying to jump out in front of something.

Cities which receive federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) must provide an analysis of impediments to fair housing choice, and employ strategies for surmounting those impediments. In 2012, Pittsburgh cited a lack of affordable housing in certain areas of the City, and the concentration of subsidized housing in other areas, as the two main impediments. The City's 2013 Annual Action Plan to solve this is to develop affordable housing outside of low-income areas. City Planning Commission approval of Specially Planned Districts such as the Penguins' proposal is discretionary, and by code, the Commission's compliance with plans and policies adopted by the City is mandatory.

The Justice Dept., HUD, and now Congress are obviously watching Pittsburgh these days. If I didn't know better, I'd think they were picturing us dressed as a glazed ham.


And finally...

Tony Ceoffe's campaign has made allegations of Democratic Party Committee wrongdoing a campaign issue since Bill Peduto first endorsed candidate Deb Gross in mid-July (a week prior to the party nomination vote) and continued to do so during its unsuccessful legal objection to her nomination. Yesterday and today, a little more of the same came out:

The tweet by @TonyCeoffe, deleted at least several hours later, read "Barb Kelley the 9th Ward vice-chair stepped down from LU after telling me she was forced to vote for Deb Gross by Ron Deutsch."

The Comet contacted the Ceoffe campaign primarily to ascertain whether the deleted tweet absolutely needed to stay buried forever to protect the innocent. Ceoffe's spokesperson added that Kelly allegedly told Ceoffe after the vote, "Sorry. Ronnie's the boss. I had to do what I had to do," that secret ballots are no proof against the Committee grape vine, that the alleged cause of Kelly stepping down from Lawrenceville United's leadership was merely speculative, and that "the threats and promises of jobs were real, and they definitely had an impact on the outcome of the vote."

The Ceoffe campaign also added another Committee members' name to the "threatened or promised something" list: that of Donnie Sand.

Sand categorically denied to the Comet having been threatened by anyone or promised anything. He said he voted to nominate Gross because she seems "more educated and more professional," and added by way of contrast that "Ceoffe is immature yet, maybe one day he'll blossom into a better candidate."

Barbara Kelly politely declined to comment for this story.


  1. This is the tip of the iceberg. During the mayoral election there was a ton of arm twisting and promises. Just pay attention and watch how things unfold. Watch the jobs and favors unfold.

  2. Bram, you asked the wrong question. Did he get a promotion or pay raise since endorsing Gross?? Of course he did.

    1. Well. It's well-documented that DS is a County 911 administrative shift commander. I'll leave it to someone else to file the FOIA request; there are enough opposing campaigns to do their own opp-research. Ceoffe seems not yet to really know since the "threatened OR promised" line speaks to no specific information and doesn't include Anon 8:36's new "given something already" possibility. If the test comes back negative, I'm not sure how we'll respond to that: "Of course that only means it was his niece or a nephew that got a promotion or pay raise."

      Note that DS is also a duly proclaimed champion of the Morningside Baseball Assoc. When I asked Gross in mid-August what are the concerns she is hearing in Morningside, much as you like to jibe her for being out of touch with neighborhoods she said, "Baseball! They worry about the condition of their baseball fields and the funding for their baseball leagues!" So she might have picked up that support the old-fashioned way.

    2. "Out of Touch" must be correct, thanks for reminding us!! -- There is only One Baseball League and One Field this League plays on in Morningside! There is a seperate Softball League that plays at Heths Field but only an "In Touch" Candidate would know the difference! I guess they are just kids and its ONLY a sport......... Too bad some people don't see the importance!

    3. It looked like there was at least a boys' and a girls' league...

  3. Natoli field is shared by a number of different sports teams, including football and baseball. TPlus, there is a considerable need to improve the fields and create some kind of community sports oversight board composed of representatives from the different leagues to ensure that the Natoli field is shared adequately between the different leagues and associations that use the field.

    Seems pretty "in touch" to this D7 voter.

  4. Its more than just sports in Morningside and the oversight board has been in its beginning stages for years and needs someone who has worked with the key individuals who are STILL dedicated to our youth to help faciliate. Tony was instrumental in having the unsafe asphalt Left Field situation rectified years ago when he WASN'T campaigning! (As well as a track record of working with community organizations to reach their common goal) These are the things he does for fun! Imagine if he is elected..... Maybe our youth organizations will feel like a part of the neighborhood again!!

  5. So it's about baseball? During that interview was there any consideration given to the burglaries we recently dealt with this summer or the interest in implementing a strong block watch? How about the redevelopment of Morningside school or the need for bus service on the weekends and maybe getting a bank back in the neighborhood. My kids played for Morningside and I'm glad baseball needs funding but what about funding for MACC so they can focus on all the other important stuff too. How about football, soccer, softball or building concensus around the Heth/Natoli plan? I guess is one person tells you it's baseball then it must be baseball. That looks like a clear strike to me, batters up!

  6. I wonder if any "champions" of Morningside Baseball have had their salary increased since this piece?? How about 6 and a half bucks an hour! Is that the goin rate to "own" someone???