Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg creates affordable housing incentive program, approves large apartment building in Midtown

Rendering of the approved Midtown residential and commercial building

Harrisburg City Council approved several new affordable housing measures on Tuesday, in addition to a major new apartment and parking project.

At a virtual legislative session, council passed a package of bills aimed at incentivizing affordable housing development and approved a large project that includes residential and commercial space, as well as a new parking garage.

The new affordable housing program establishes incentives for developers, including tax abatement, zoning relief and an easier street vacation application process.

In order to receive the benefits, developers must provide at least 20% of their units as affordable housing for low-income families, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The price to rent any of these affordable units must not exceed 30% of a household’s monthly income.

“The goal is to really bridge the gap between our residents and the developers,” council member Danielle Bowers said at a previous work session. “If we set this threshold too high, it’s not realistic for our developers to meet. If we set it too low, it’s not really affordable for our residents.”

Bowers said that Harrisburg’s 20% threshold is higher than many surrounding municipalities.

Developers can also receive parking requirement relief if 25% of the building’s units are rented at an affordable rate.

If a developer receives a certificate of qualification and then does not continue to provide affordable housing, they could have their certificate revoked and may be fined up to $1,000, according to the new ordinance.

Council hopes developers like Philadelphia-area businessman Kevin Baird will participate in this program.

While at a previous work session, Baird wouldn’t make any promises to participate, council did approve his land development plan for an 85-unit apartment building, including a 500-space parking garage, grocery store, office and retail space.

The building will be constructed on the one-acre property surrounded by Boyd, N. 5th, Reily and Fulton streets.

Council passed the land development plan with amendments that requires Baird to conduct outreach to local contractors for bidding opportunities and to schools for internship and apprenticeship opportunities.

Baird said they plan to break ground in July or August of this year and have the parking garage portion of the project almost completed by late summer of 2022.

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