As recently reported by CBRE, real estate developers have developed more urban multifamily units in Pittsburgh over the past three years than the previous 15 combined. While there’s no question this has stimulated growth, what’s brought into question is how can we can create more equitable development. Residents living in areas like East Liberty have lived through this rapid change and the resulting gentrification as new establishments and high-rise apartment buildings replace neighborhood staples and affordable housing.
Some of the changes may be beneficial for those who can afford them, but what about those that can’t? How do we reconcile the visions of new and old residents alike, and how can a neighborhood manage change rather than being swept up by it?
As part of Inclusive Innovation Week 2018, Module partnered with the City of Pittsburgh, Avenu, Uptown Partners, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority to engage the community in a discussion. The event, titled “Shaping Equitable Development: Design as Activism” was hosted in Uptown at the Paramount Film Exchange where residents gathered to listen and participate in a panel discussion on how to build Pittsburgh together. Some key takeaways from our panelists:
Raqueeb Bey, Grow Pittsburgh and Black Urban Gardeners:
The term “affordable housing” has different meanings for different people. What’s considered affordable for one neighborhood may not be affordable in another, it’s very contextual. Do your research – vote for representatives who will support the types of policies and neighborhood development that you want
Elizabeth Engelbretson, Gulf Coast Community Design Studio:
Representatives have power – but residents have power too! Designers have a responsibility to consider the implications that new development will have on an existing community. Designers need to claim their seat at the table in order to lead the conversation towards equability – not just profitability.
Ed Nusser, Lawrenceville Corporation:
Equitable development means providing equal access to resources. “Affordable” doesn’t mean “mediocre.” Land trust homes should be built with the same quality as other new homes in the neighborhood. The most important thing that a community organization can do is to listen to what people actually want, to understand what barriers exist to achieving these goals, and find the right levers to pull.
So how has the discussion informed our work at Module? It’s reminded us that we will have an impact – not only on the lives of the people we build homes for, but also the neighborhoods that we build in. For us, context is key. We will continue to work closely with community development corporations, activists, and most importantly the residents to design and build a better Pittsburgh.
Special thanks to our many generous sponsors: