The neighborhood for too long has been the victim of violence, illegal drug trafficking and a glut of abandoned housing. But a week and a half ago 10 elected officials and community leaders stabbed gold-colored shovels into a patch of dirt on Dearborn Street in a gesture that announced Garfield has been moving in the right direction and has plans to keep on going.
The ceremonial kickoff is the start of construction on 45 rental homes. When finished, there will be a mix of two-, three- and four-bedroom homes between North Mathilda and North Atlantic streets, open to households earning less than $35,000 for a family of five, $32,000 for four, $29,000 for three and $26,000 for two-person families.
Already 115 people are on a list to apply for the rentals. The community has added another 45 new homes that were for sale, not rent, and 10 more houses will be renovated.
This effort has been led by the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., and in the case of the new rentals, in partnership with S&A Homes, which will build and manage the units. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency provided $1.17 million in federal tax credits for private investors, and Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority loaned the project $1.7 million.
The numbers may not sound significant when compared to a suburban housing development, but it's important to put Garfield's plans in context. Bloomfield-Garfield's executive director, Rick Swartz, told the Post-Gazette's Diana Nelson Jones that, 15 years ago, the organization was renovating two to four homes per year only to see 30 to 40 being abandoned.
Even now Garfield has 140 vacant homes and more than 500 vacant lots. But it is situated near two neighborhoods undergoing their own revivals, Lawrenceville and East Liberty, and it is ready to take advantage of the guiding principal of real estate -- location, location, location.