The development that is rapidly transforming some areas of the city could actually be part of the solution to ensuring everyone benefits from the region’s economic transformation.
That’s the premise behind a report from the research institute PolicyLink—Equitable Development: The Path to an All-in Pittsburgh—which provides a roadmap for Pittsburgh to “not just imagine but actually build a different future,” says Sarah Treuhaft, director of equitable growth initiatives at PolicyLink.
Development has the potential to bring new jobs and economic prosperity to the region, and with an equity agenda—the just and fair inclusion of all residents—everyone can benefit.
Neighborhood Allies and Urban Innovation21 have been the local leads on the report working with PolicyLink as part of the institute’s All-in Cities Initiative. PolicyLink began by convening over 200 community leaders in workshops to define what equitable development means in a place like Pittsburgh where the market is coming back.
Based on that Pittsburgh-specific definition (which you can read in the full report), here are some of the recommendations:
Raise the bar for new development
Treuhaft says there are several wheels in motion that will support this agenda. The Heinz Endowments’ p4 (People, Planet, Place, and Performance) initiative is developing a list of performance metrics for developers that could be adopted voluntarily and ultimately become part of local government policy.
A second p4 conference will be held this October with a special focus on issues of equity which will continue to champion the agenda.
“There is a reason why ‘People’ is the first element that makes up p4,” says Mayor Bill Peduto, about the upcoming conference. “Pittsburgh has experienced two prior rebirths that focused on new buildings, roads and bridges—this new movement in the city is the people’s renaissance.”
Make all neighborhoods healthy communities of opportunity
The report recommends implementing all of the Affordable Housing Task Force recommendations which include the creation of a trust fund to keep housing affordable. “Solving the affordability crisis will be critical,” says Treuhaft. “This is a great effort that needs to be supported.”
Other recommendations are to develop a community land trust strategy, something that is already well underway in Lawrenceville and to use publicly-owned land for equitable development.
Expand employment and ownership opportunities
Treuhaft says in the private sector it’s not just developers that are responsible for setting a new agenda. Anchor institutions in the eds and meds field that have replaced traditional manufacturing as large regional employers and investors can choose how they spend their money.
Treuhaft points to Cleveland and Chicago where groups of up to 15 anchor institutions have agreed to advance inclusion by directing their spending to support businesses that have historically been left behind.
“Pittsburgh has very strong anchors and more could be done to leverage their economic power,” says Treuhaft.
Embed racial equity throughout Pittsburgh’s institutions and businesses
Private companies can actively advance an equity mission. Cascade Engineering in Grand Rapids has an anti-racism mission statement and hires people with barriers to employment. Businesses can start by looking at their company policies and hiring practices and creating policies that would actively support the equity agenda.
Bridgeway Capital’s rehabilitation at 7800 Susquehanna Street, a business incubator in Homewood, is a local example of a development project with an embedded racial equity policy. As one example, the interior renovations of the new economic hub were completed by Ma’at Construction Group with 85% minority contractor participation.
How can you help create an #allinpittsburgh?
“This is a broad agenda and it will need many champions,” says Treuhaft. “It’s going to take stewards of the plan and it will take everyone being all-in for this agenda.”
A major next step is to get city and county government to formally adopt the definition and to have local institutions, organizations, businesses and residents participate in its positive movement.
Want to share your personal commitment? Support equitable development and take the pledge on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Tag #AllInPittsburgh partners @UrbInnovation21 @nhbdalliespgh @HeinzEndow @policylink.
Here are some ideas from the group to get you going:
“I will support policies that ensure development without displacement.”
“I will challenge myself to understand structural and institutional racism.”
“Let’s pass a strong inclusionary zoning policy for the people who need affordable housing the most.”
“I support the creation of community land trusts.”
“I will continue to encourage my university to buy local.”
“[My company] will create targets for contracting with minority- and women-owned businesses.”