Garfield gets new housing but needs lots more

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More than 10 years ago, the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. began planning a large-scale housing blitz to eradicate blight in Garfield and return properties to the tax rolls.

At a ceremony in the 4900 block of Kincaid Street on Tuesday, the nonprofit and its investors celebrated completion of 48 affordable homes for sale and 45 affordable rental homes. The homes have filled nearly 200 vacant lots, most of which were tax delinquent and acquired by the city through treasurer's sales.

The two projects together represent a $21 million investment.

"I challenge you to point out which ones are the rentals," said Aggie Brose, Bloomfield-Garfield's deputy director. "That's what this is all about."

The properties are scattered but concentrated on Kincaid, Dearborn and Broad streets.

If not for the city's ability to clear titles and absorb liens, Ms. Brose said, "it would have been completely prohibitive."

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency's offer of tax credits was a critical part of the process, too, but the tax credit program, already competitive, may see drops in availability and other sources are zeroing out.

"Ask your congressional delegates for more," said Brian Hudson, executive director of the finance agency, adding, "We're looking for additional sources to bring capital to the table so we can do more projects like this."

"We took a lot of nuisance properties out of this neighborhood," Ms. Brose said, adding, "We're not putting the density back. This area was famous for row houses. One thing we heard loud and clear was that residents want detached homes and yards."

The for-sale homes, built by Steve Catranel Construction, represent $10.5 million in investment kick-started with a $1 million loan from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

They cost $225,000 to build, said Bloomfield-Garfield's executive director Rick Swartz. "We're selling them at $143,500 because that's the highest we can get the house appraised for."

The houses are made affordable by soft second mortgages issued by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. The second mortgages do not have to be paid back as long as the owner lives in the home.

Bloomfield-Garfield leveraged $10.5 million in partnering with several banks, the URA and foundations. The home buyers were vetted through the nonprofit Garfield Jubilee Association's home-buyers training workshops.

The rentals were built by S&A Homes with $11 million in investments, including federal tax credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and a loan from the URA. The rentals will be managed by a private company.

The units will be priced from $525 for two-bedroom homes to $785 for four-bedroom homes. They are scattered among the for-sale homes. Six are reserved for the physically disabled and will rent for less than $525. A handful will be available to people who have Section 8 vouchers, Mr. Swartz said.

Renters will have an option to buy the homes in 2027. Funding has been set aside to prepare renters to become sustainable home owners, Ms. Brose said. The rentals are in such demand, she said, that for 45 units "we got 500 applications. The need is that great."

neigh_city - businessnews

Diana Nelson Jones: or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at First Published October 15, 2013 8:00 PM


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