By Elizabeth Perry
Pittsburgh’s largest non-profit developer, Action Housing Inc., has proposed the creation of an affordable housing complex on the empty lot located behind Suds & Subs in McKees Rocks.
The parcel, situated between Chartiers Avenue and Mary Street, formerly housed a 19-unit apartment building with ground-floor business space. The building was lost to fire in late December 2017.
Construction plans for the new affordable apartment complex were presented to members of the McKees Rocks council during the Sept. 12 borough meeting.
Lena Andrews, vice president of real estate development at Action Housing, said they were planning to create 40 one- and two-bedroom units at the site.
Andrews said McKees Rocks was ideal for the low-income development because it was centrally located in a “vibrant community” close to downtown, near many jobs and on a bus line.
Additionally, she said the organization was working with the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation, which owns the vacant property.
Several residents had questions for Andrews about the proposed structure.
Resident Maribeth Taylor asked if the parking would be adequate for the space.
Andrews responded saying less than half of all the residents in McKees Rocks have cars.
“We’ve never done one-to-one parking,” Andrews added.
Action Housing has erected similar housing complexes in Squirrel Hill, Lawrenceville, Oakland, Brookline, Fineview, Garfield, Braddock and Forest Hills.
Taylor also voiced concerns the Action Housing project would be connected with the Choice Neighborhoods Grant, which she has publicly opposed.
The grant is being pursued by the Allegheny County Housing Authority as part of its work to demolish and rebuild an outdated housing project known as Hays Manor.
Taylor said she does not want additional subsidized housing built in McKees Rocks.
In an interview after the meeting, Andrews told Gazette 2.0 Action Housing’s project is not connected with the Choice Neighborhoods Grant.
Resident Robert Coward asked if the bus stop in front of the property would be moved, and questioned what would happen to the steps residents use to go up the hill. The steps belong to McKees Rocks Borough.
Andrews said the bus stop would be inaccessible during the building process, but would be put back in place after the housing complex was completed.
Andrews said most of the buildings they have built give preferences to people who have certain needs. For example, the group’s building in Squirrel Hill was specifically designed with accessibility in mind. The McKees Rocks building may give preference to Veterans who are seeking housing, Andrews said.
Board President Archie Brinza echoed that sentiment, expressing a preference for housing catering to veterans in McKees Rocks.
“I’m kind of excited,” Councilmember Frank McQuillan said. “Someone’s willing to make a castle out of a mudslide.”
Action Housing was founded in 1957 and is designed to help veterans, people with intellectual or physical disabilities, children who have aged out of foster care and the elderly.
“We’re in the process of applying for funding now, the applications are due in December,” Andrews said.
If the grant for low-income tax credits comes through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency comes through, confirmation will likely be had in April.
Then construction will begin in early 2025 and hopefully conclude in 2026, Andrews said.