Nine housing and development issues facing the Gainey administration

From left, Allegheny County Economic Development Director Lance Chimka, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Pittsburgh Councilwoman Deb Gross are among local officials facing issues including redevelopment of industrial sites and housing quality. (Photos by Kaycee Orwig, Ryan Loew, Nick Childers, Rich Lord, Allegheny County and Hazelwood Green development team. Collage by Natasha Vicens/PublicSource)

The new mayor will quickly face potential changes to landscapes in Oakland, Hazelwood and the Hill District while inheriting housing issues, initiatives and opportunities.

by Rich Lord, PublicSource

Expect at least one very early test of Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey’s development philosophy.

Zoning changes written for the Oakland Crossings development proposal are set for a City Planning Commission hearing and vote on Jan. 11, just a week into Gainey’s term as mayor of Pittsburgh. Developer Walnut Capital’s plan to rezone 18 acres of Central Oakland and South Oakland was endorsed by Mayor Bill Peduto but drew skepticism from the commission at a December briefing because it did not include low-income housing and skipped normal planning channels.

The commission isn’t bound to work a mayor’s will but often considers elected leadership’s guidance. Gainey said he’s still studying the rezoning proposal, but will apply an inclusive approach to that and other development concepts.

“We’re looking forward to meeting with the community and the community groups to find out what the procedural issues are going forward,” he told PublicSource in a Dec. 22 interview. “We want to talk to all of the stakeholders,” he added.

Ed Gainey declaring victory as Pittsburgh's next mayor at a celebration at the Benedum Center on Nov. 2. (Photo by Nick Childers/PublicSource)
Ed Gainey declaring victory as Pittsburgh’s next mayor at a celebration at the Benedum Center on Nov. 2. (Photo by Nick Childers/PublicSource)

Gainey’s insistence on broad community input could slow the progress of some development proposals. His campaign’s emphasis on affordable housing, on the other hand, could add urgency to policy change in that area.

The Democrat is no neophyte to development issues. He served for nine years as a state representative from Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, and since 2014 on the Urban Redevelopment Authority [URA] board, which each year provides millions in aid to construction projects, community initiatives and affordable housing programs. 

Now he’ll make appointments to the URA board, plus the City Planning Commission, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh [HACP] board and other agencies that make decisions on development.

Those appointments will come amid a shifting economic landscape that includes ongoing processes, new partners, unprecedented federal funding and an ongoing pandemic.

Here’s a look at nine housing and development issues that are likely to play out during the first year of the new administration.

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