Housing study good idea

Altoona City Council should agree to a state-funded study investigating the possibilities of downtown housing for young professionals and collegians.

In keeping with a directive in the city’s Act 47 recovery plan, a committee is recommending Council hire Fourth River Development LLC of Pittsburgh to lead the study, with help from a pair of sub-consultants.

The study, expected to take six-to-nine months, will cost $250,000 that can be covered with a state grant made available to municipalities in the Act 47 program.

Patrick Miller, president of the Greater Altoona Economic Development Corp. and a member of the committee making the recommendation, said the study will determine the demand for non-subsidized downtown housing, the cost of creating such housing through renovations or new construction and the financing needed to accomplish it.

That sounds like a wealth of information which could identify what we suspect is an underserved group of individuals who would be interested in living close to work or school.

Several employers – including UPMC Altoona, the Station Medical Center, Penn State Altoona and the Altoona Area School District – are located downtown or within a short walking distance of the downtown.

Collectively, they employ a lot of people in all stages of life, including young professionals who would probably choose to live close to work if they could find attractive housing that’s priced in line with their salaries.

And we suspect that some Penn State Altoona collegians, including those enrolled in classes at the downtown buildings, might be interested in such housing, too.

In mid-2009, when Penn State Altoona identified a need for more off-campus student housing to accommodate a growth in enrollment, we encouraged Logan Township leaders to shy away from rezoning a residential area near the campus in favor of exploring other options.

While the decision to pursue this study rests with Altoona City Council, this seems like an option Logan Township should endorse as a way to respond to the campus.

It also seems like a great option for City Council to pursue without delay.