Riverview Towers, the Jewish community-backed apartment complex that offers affordable housing to older adults in Pittsburgh, is taking steps to make the units more accessible and appealing to a larger group of low-income seniors.
Riverview Towers Apartments Inc., which owns and operates the two apartment buildings in Squirrel Hill, received $1.67 million in state tax credits last Friday to renovate several units from efficiencies to one and two bedroom apartments. It will also make a portion of the houses “unrestricted,” meaning they will be available to residents of any income.
“It’s not about getting the money so much, but the ability to continue to provide the services,” said executive director Hanna Steiner. “Whether it’s a physical building or something else, there is a life cycle, and [Riverview Towers] is at the point where you need to make sure it serves the purpose for which it was built.”
The nonprofit, a beneficiary of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, decided to apply for additional funding because of rising property values in Squirrel Hill, a need for large system updates and the “desire to make the property more leasable,” Steiner said.
It plans to renovate 54 efficiencies and six one-bedroom apartments, turning them into 24 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom units. The renovations, which Steiner said will take about 12 months to get started and 18 months to complete, will reduce the number of total available units from 221 to 191.
Of those 191 units, 40 will be unrestricted, or available to tenants of any income, Steiner said. The other units will be for residents that qualify for affordable housing, meaning they are at or below 60 percent of Area Median Income. In Allegheny County, the median family income is $76,000 according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“The decision was made for Riverview Towers to apply for tax credits that would enable this transition, specifically to be able to renovate the apartments so they would be more attractive to individuals,” he said, adding that talks of these changes have been in the works for about four years.
Riverview Towers received the tax credits through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, which offers tax credits to affordable housing programs throughout the state that demonstrate they have strong community support and the resources needed to complete their proposed projects.
In Pennsylvania, 39 organizations received low-income housing tax credits for 2018, including three in Pittsburgh. According to state Sen. Jay Costa (D-District 43), who was involved in helping Riverview Towers receive the tax credits, close to 100 projects from the state apply for the program.
“The Riverview Program has been around for a lot of years. It provides a great service and allows people to stay in the community. And they should be in the community that has the appropriate facility,” Costa said. “Those are some of the things we’ve tried to do.”
This is the second year Riverview Towers has applied for the PHFA program.
Costa also helped Jewish Residential Services receive the same state tax credits to begin construction on Krause Commons, another affordable housing project in Squirrel Hill, in May 2017.
In 2018, Riverview Towers accounts for about 10 percent of the total affordable housing units that will be made possible through the PHFA Low Income Housing Tax Credit.
The apartment complex includes two apartment buildings — the first was initially constructed in 1965 and the second in 1971. The additional funding from the tax credits, Steiner said, will make sure Riverview Towers can still offer residents “the full gamut of mind, body and soul,” referring to the company’s additional “wraparound services” such as housekeeping, meals and a library.
“It’s time to make sure that we are here to stay for the next 30 years,” she said. PJC
Lauren Rosenblatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.