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Luxury Apartment Boom Worries Longtime Residents

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - In many ways it's a dream come true for the city of Pittsburgh, a massive construction boom in luxury apartment buildings accommodating a new professional class of young workers.

Drawn to Pittsburgh by our tech companies, banks, hospitals and universities, people are snapping up apartments at new complexes like Bakery Square in East Liberty, readily plunking down between $1,500 and $2,400 a month.

While some see the boom as an affirmation of the city's resurgence, others fear a generation of Pittsburghers are being priced out of the neighborhoods they once called home.

Longtime residents have been asked to leave the Penn Plaza Apartments so the developer can knocked it down and construct and build more high-priced luxury apartments in the neighborhood.

"We're in a crisis really. If you lose your home in the east end there no place to replace you," said Councilman Ricky Burgess.

He explains the building boom is also causing rents to rise throughout the neighborhood and jacking up assessments on existing homes, meaning taxes are going up, making it hard for folks to hold on.

"Every time we build a market rate unit we eat up or we dissolve more affordable housing so we as a city must be proactive in building affordable housing so these people don't get displaced," Burgess said.

The city administration says it's determined to avoid gentrification battles that have been seen in cities like San Francisco, Austin, Texas, and Boston, where the high rents and home prices have basically forced out the poor and middle class.

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"If you're making a normal wage you can't afford to live in the city. You have to live outside the city. We want to do things differently here," said the mayor's Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin.

In neighboring Larimer the city is using a $30 million housing and urban development grant to build this new community of market rate and subsidize housing. But, the development is small compared to the 32 units of class a luxury apartments being built or coming on line in the city.

The city is trying to partner with developers like Walnut Capital's Todd Reidbord to build more affordable housing in addition to the luxury models currently under construction.

"It's a challenge in terms of finding the right opportunities and funding sources, but I think with the mayor's help and other folks in the community we're looking at opportunities," Reidbord said.

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