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Heidelberg Offers Help With Spacious, Affordable Homes

Thursday, June 24, 2010
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Heidelberg Mayor Kenneth LaSota, at podium, and Richard Ranii, Allegheny County Economic Development Housing manager, speak during the dedication of two new homes in Heidelberg. Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette

Tom Wiater, senior construction manager for Action Housing, had the proud look of a new parent Monday afternoon as visitors toured his nearly 2,000-square-foot “baby” at 478 Grant Ave. in Heidelberg.

The guests nodded approvingly at the spacious rooms, walk-in closet and outdoor wooden deck of the newly completed house.

It and its “sister” house, an almost identical home built next door, didn’t follow the typical pattern of being constructed by a private developer who would sell the home on the open market.

They are among four single-family homes built on Grant Avenue as part of a redevelopment program that allows municipalities that suffered flood damage during Hurricane Ivan in 2004 to identify sites outside of the 100-year flood plain that were in need of redevelopment.

They were built through a cooperative effort by Allegheny County, Heidelberg and Action Housing, an agency that works with the county to make housing options available for people with household incomes at or below 80 percent of local median income.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating completion of the last two homes was attended by county and borough officials and by local residents, who toured the homes and listened to speakers who extolled the virtues of the joint housing program.

All four homes have been sold.

Dennis Davin, director of the county Department of Economic Development, said the program to build the new homes would not have come about without the cooperation of Heidelberg.

“These will help to revitalize the community,” Mr. Davin said.

The main commitment Heidelberg made to the project, he said, was a no-interest loan to Action Housing.

The agency then contracted with Jad Contracting Inc. of Findlay to build the homes. When the closings on all the properties are completed, Action Housing will pay back the borough’s loan. The houses were built on vacant lots that were not generating real-estate tax revenues.

The homes dedicated on Monday sold for $110,000 each. Each home features three bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths, a full basement, one-car garage, a fully equipped kitchen with energy saving appliances and an energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning system.

The homes also were built with double-pane windows and adequate insulation to meet energy conservation guidelines for new construction, Mr. Wiater said.

“It’s a nice program. It’s good to see young families able to afford to buy a home,” he said.

Mark and Beth Zyra are in the process of buying the house at 478 Grant Ave., while Brianne Kinney is purchasing the house next door. The houses sold quickly, said borough manager Joe Kauer. Both buyers were on the waiting list from the previous sale of the homes at 602 and 604 Grant Ave., Mr. Kauer said.

Heidelberg Mayor Kenneth LaSota touted the program as a way to rejuvenate the housing stock in Heidelberg, which this year marks its 108th year as a borough and has some houses that are even older than the borough.

He said Heidelberg does have one big advantage over development in newer communities, though.

“The infrastructure is already available,” he said.

The mayor added that by filling and reusing lots in older communities like Heidelberg, there is no need to consume farmland or to promote urban sprawl.

“Heidelberg is a developer’s dream,” he said.

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