NEW CASTLE Studies to redo spin on homes

A new form of public housing could eliminate housing projects and integrate families into neighborhoods.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Housing downtown could forever change with the help of two proposed studies.
One study will look at the market for more apartments and lofts and the other will look at eliminating public housing projects and integrating those families into neighborhoods.
On Thursday, city council will consider hiring Pittsburgh consultant Ralph Falbo to conduct the downtown housing market study. He would be paid $1,200 a month for the 12-month study.
Both studies are part of the ongoing effort to revitalize downtown.
The city is undergoing a multimillion-dollar face-lift of its roads, utilities and parking. It's part of a private-public effort to stimulate business.
Here's the trend: Falbo said as business and retail opportunities grow, many cities are finding that young professionals and senior citizens want to live in downtown areas.
Those age groups are often attracted to lofts and apartments downtown because they provide easy access to work, parks and services found only in cities.
If a need is found in the study, potential developers could apply for money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for renovation and construction, said John DiMuccio, city administrator.
The other study is not likely to be considered this month by council because it requires city and county approval, but initial talks between city and county officials have been favorable, DiMuccio said.
The study would look at a new form of public housing that would eliminate the stigma of public housing and put people in publicly owned homes in neighborhoods with privately owned homes, Falbo said.
There are now five public housing projects and three public housing high-rises in the city.
"The intent would be to get rid of projects and have mixed income neighborhoods," Falbo said. "This raises the whole tone of society when you can do that."
Other areas: Falbo is working on similar projects for Farrell's Steel City Terrace and in the Manchester section of Pittsburgh.
Local agencies, such as the United Way, would assist families in their transition to neighborhood living by teaching them how to care for a home, Falbo said.

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