New Module homes a ‘milestone’ for Garfield development
Private developers are again eyeing Garfield as a good place to build market-rate homes after years of disinvestment.
Module, an East-Liberty-based housing startup, on Tuesday outlined $1 million plans to build two single-family homes and a two-unit duplex along Black Street. One of the single-family homes would be offered to customers earning less than 80% of the area mean income for Allegheny County, or $63,900 per year for a family of four. The others will be sold at market rates.
Rick Swartz, longtime executive director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., said Module’s project marks a turning point for the low-income neighborhood. Swartz said developers for decades required public subsidies to build in Garfield.
“We now have a developer who’s going to build two homes in Garfield that are going to be market rate, and he’s not looking for a subsidy,” Swartz said. “For us, that’s something of a milestone. It tells us there are people who want to live in Garfield and pay market rate. We have people competing to buy houses. We never had that before.”
Brian Gaudio, Module’s CEO, said the company specializes in energy-efficient modular homes built offsite and assembled on location. He said he targeted Garfield because he wanted to partner with the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. on an affordable house.
Module purchased three vacant lots on the street — two from the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority for a total of $24,000, and one owned by the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. for $12,000.
The URA has approved grants totaling $105,000 that will be used exclusively to build the affordable house.
“We want to be sure this house is available to someone in the neighborhood,” Gaudio said.
It will feature two bedrooms. The market-rate house will have three bedrooms. The duplex will have two bedrooms in the top unit and one in the lower.
All of the buildings will be certified as zero energy homes, meaning lower energy consumption. Gaudio said they feature extra insulation to keep in the heat, low-flow water fixtures and energy-saving ventilation systems.
Module recently completed its first house in nearby Friendship, and Gaudio said the company plans more in the future.
Mayor Bill Peduto, who attended the groundbreaking, lauded the company for its modular design.
“There are lots like this all throughout the city of Pittsburgh, and we own them,” Peduto said. “That lot becomes blight that brings a whole neighborhood down when it could be an opportunity to create 21st-century housing, to create a company in Pittsburgh that will employ people to do it and is a part of the modular movement that’s happening on a global basis.”
Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. has focused on building affordable housing in the neighborhood since 1983, Swartz said. It has since built about 115 homes and renovated about 30 vacant houses. Homes 30 years ago sold in the range of $40,000. They are now selling for more than $200,000, Swartz said.
He said home ownership is key to revitalizing neighborhoods.
“Our goal was always to help people restore the equity they have in their homes,” he said. “That helps rebuild the market strength of the neighborhood.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-564-3080, [email protected] or via Twitter .