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New homes in Hill open doors to first-time buyers

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Jeremy Boren
Friday, May 11, 2007

Goldie Harris likes the look of the tidy, new, two-story houses next to her home in the heart of the Hill District, but she’s not sure who can afford to live in them.
“The most important thing is to make them affordable,” said Harris, 76, who has lived on Roberts Street for 11 years.

Her new neighbors are the first eight of 29 planned houses — called Bedford Hill Homes — by the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh. The homes are the newest part of an existing 400-unit, affordable housing development.

Harris said the Bedford Hill Homes’ $150,000 price tags could be steep for some first-time home buyers.

Tom Cummings, housing director for the Urban Redevelopment Authority, disagrees.
He said zero-percent federal and URA deferred loans are available to cut drastically the cost of new mortgages — as long as the new owners are first-time home buyers and meet income requirements.

The brick-faced homes have individual entrances and small front yards — a type of design that’s slowly replacing the Housing Authority’s much-maligned public housing high-rises, authority officials have said.

The homes were developed by Hanson Design Group, Steve Catranel Construction Co. and others.

“We believe these are more than just buildings behind us. This is an investment in the community,” said A. Fulton Meachem Jr., the housing authority’s executive director. “We are making home ownership available to all residents in the city of Pittsburgh.”

Buyers have applied to purchase five of the eight first-phase homes, Cummings said.

They’re expected to close those sales by the end of the month, when the second round of eight homes will begin going up, he said.

None of the potential buyers attended a dedication ceremony Thursday in the Hill. Attending the event were Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Council President Doug Shields.

Howard Cooper, 72, another Roberts Street resident, said a rowdy dive bar — and others like it — used to occupy the land where the model Bedford Hill home sat open yesterday for tours.

“There’s been a whole lot of changes here,” said Cooper, who stopped by the ceremony to snap photos with his camera. “There used to be a lot of bars around here, and they caused a lot of problems” with drugs and crime.

“I’m hoping some kids will move in now,” Cooper said. “It’s a lot better here.”

Jeremy Boren can be reached at or (412) 765-2312.

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