The Dave Wright Apartments will feature 42 one- and two-bedroom apartments, including six for physically disabled people, on the site of the former Wright’s Seafood restaurant in Heidelberg. About half the units are expected to go to higher functioning autistic adults who can live independently and hold a job, said Elliot Frank, president of the Autism Housing Development Corp. of Pittsburgh, which is building the complex along with ACTION-Housing Inc.
Mr. Frank said he expects the apartments, which received an innovation design award from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, to open in the fall of 2016. Financed under a federal law that provides affordable housing, the rents will range from $575 to $800 a month, and a single resident will not be able to earn more than $28,000 a year, he said.
While this project may be the first that mixes autistic and non-autistic adults, it is part of a recent movement to create affordable housing projects that put various special needs groups alongside typical renters. One ACTION-Housing project being developed in Bloomfield will house disabled veterans alongside regular renters, and another in Uptown combines typical renters with residents with hearing and vision disabilities, said Larry Swanson, executive director of ACTION-Housing.
The Heidelberg project grew out of a conversation a few years ago between Mr. Frank and Roy Diamond, an affordable housing developer in Philadelphia. Both of them have sons with autism, Mr. Frank recalled, and “we said to ourselves, once they’re grown up, where do they live? So we said, ‘Let’s do affordable housing for them so we can complete the puzzle for them on how to live independent, affordable lives.’ ”
Financing for the $13 million project is coming through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. Under the IRS code used for such projects, banks get $1 in direct tax credits for every dollar provided, and PNC is contributing $11.5 million of the financing. The rest is coming from Allegheny County.