LC Statement Regarding Inclusionary Zoning Overlay District

April 6, 2021

Lawrenceville Corporation (LC), an organization serving as a catalyst and conduit for responsible growth and reinvestment in a neighborhood which currently has one of the strongest housing markets in the country, fully supports the permanent adoption of the Inclusionary Zoning Overlay District as presented to the Planning Commission with a revision to raise the set aside from 10% to 15%.  At LC, we recognize that, while no panacea, permanent inclusionary zoning is a necessary tool for reversing our housing affordability crisis and ensuring that our community truly offers housing for all.

Thanks to Councilwoman Deb Gross, Mayor Peduto, and Lawrenceville United’s tireless leadership and advocacy, the Interim Planning Overlay District (IPOD-6) came to Lawrenceville at a critical time. Lawrenceville was in the middle of an economic renaissance which brought vastly reduced crime rates, improved public schools, new job opportunities along its growing business district, and access to public transportation and world-class healthcare facilities. Yet just as these opportunities abounded, rents skyrocketed the neighborhood lost about half of its Housing Choice Voucher units, low-income households, and Black residents.

We are now facing a housing affordability crisis at the national, local, and neighborhood level, a sad truth that has not gone unnoticed by Lawrenceville community members. Beginning with the Upper Lawrenceville Plan in 2013, the neighborhood made the declarative statement that affordable housing must be a priority. Since then, this imperative has repeatedly risen to the surface among community members and been further highlighted by census data, expert opinions, and tragic stories of loss.

In the 18 months that IPOD-6 was in effect in Lawrenceville, two development projects created a total of 40 new units with guaranteed affordable pricing for the next 35 years. That is 30 more units than what was developed in the previous decade. Residents that might otherwise have been forced to leave Lawrenceville will now have the opportunity to partake in the neighborhood’s economic renaissance, to break down the economic and racial segregation that has bitterly plagued Pittsburgh and led to disparate outcomes across the city’s neighborhoods.

These 40 units will create a material improvement in the lives of countless Lawrenceville residents, yet they will do little to address the immense scale of the problem. These 40 units are just a drop in the bucket of the 20,000-unit affordable housing shortage identified in Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing Assessment in 2016. Surely, the pandemic and ensuing economic fallout have only exacerbated this crisis.

If we truly want Pittsburgh to be the most livable city for all of our residents, we need to implement solutions commensurate to the challenges at hand. That is why LC created Western Pennsylvania’s first Community Land Trust and, more recently, brought ACTION Housing to the neighborhood to create 35 new affordable rental dwellings in the heart of Doughboy Square. And that is why we are here today to urge the Planning Commission to recommend the permanent adoption of the Inclusionary Zoning Overlay District to City Council, and with a revision that the affordability requirement be raised to 15%.A lot has changed since IPOD-6 was adopted in September 2019. Families across the neighborhood have come to our organization and that of our sister organization Lawrenceville United in imminent threat of eviction, homelessness, and utility shutoffs as their already precarious finances were eviscerated by COVID-19. These households are uniquely situated in a neighborhood where rents have skyrocketed, home sale prices have gone up 11.5 % in the past year, and the affordable housing stock has declined. They are also situated in a neighborhood which has been empirically proven to have a market strong enough to feasibly support a 15 % affordable housing set aside.  As the City’s Inclusionary Housing and Incentive Zoning exploratory Committee, inclusionary zoning tools must be tailored to unique market conditions where they are instituted.  Lawrenceville’s IZOD, if tailored to our community’s market conditions and as per the formulas and recommendations from the Committee’s report, should include a 15 % set aside based on recent housing data, and market value analysis. The formula for calculating the set aside should be legislated as part of the IZOD.

Community demand for affordable housing in Lawrenceville has been well documented, and we now have objective, City-approved data verifying the market can support their needs. This is not a moment to tip-toe around proven solutions – It is a moment to be bold and embrace the full feasibility of what inclusionary zoning has to offer our neighborhood. For the hundreds of hurting families in Lawrenceville, for those already forced out of their homes, we urge the Planning Commission to stand behind the permanent adoption of the inclusionary zoning overlay district in Lawrenceville and a 15 % affordability requirement now.

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