Explore housing options

Greater Altoona has been proactive in so many ways over the past

50 or so years.

It has a thriving suburban business strip that no doubt is the envy of many communities.

Downtown Altoona, which experienced the exodus of businesses in the 1960s and ’70s, like so many other cities, has remained attractive and alive, while others have continued to struggle ­– and exhibit the deterioration of that struggle.

Of course, no one can discount the positive impact of redevelopment and modern transportation amenities here. Meanwhile, Altoona can boast of being a medical center, attracting people from numerous other communities.

The city and its environs have capable police and fire departments ready to respond to any challenges or circumstances that might arise, and the Altoona Mobile Emergency Department, usually referred to as AMED, has, for decades, been helping, by way of extraordinary training and skill, to save lives.

Efforts have been outstanding in ensuring that an abundant, safe water supply is available to serve the city and surrounding area, and solid vision and intentions remain on the sanitary and storm sewer fronts, even though more needs to be done.

And, on the educational front, Greater Altoona has modern schools and a top-notch university campus offering great opportunities.

Numerous other examples of proactivity abound, but the above provide a window to the scope of what has been accomplished here and what people might, amid their busy daily lives and responsibilities, often fail to accord deep understanding and appreciation.

Still, there is work to be done, as a May 26 Mirror article reported.

“City looking for ways to expand housing stock” was the headline over the article in question, which said “Altoona is lacking in housing that appeals to the young professionals” who the Altoona Blair County Development Corp. has been trying to attract to the area.

The article quoted Steve

McKnight, CEO of ABCD, who made the interesting comment — interesting and true — that sometimes one of the main obstacles to getting something done is psychological, “wondering whether the market for selling or renting a proposed project is there.”

The May 26 report dealing with city officials’ discussion of the needed-housing issue touched on the possibility of using at least some of the American Rescue Plan money that Altoona has received, to try to increase the needed housing envisioned.

That is a good candidate for some of the money, but there is an important step that needs to be addressed before the city settles on that use.

The city needs to form a task force consisting of some of the most knowledgeable local “housing and development people” to muster their viewpoints and expertise on the directions in which the city should proceed to achieve its “expand housing stock” objective.

Such a task force could study the issue from several vantage points by dividing the panel into work groups, then ultimately combining their findings and recommendations into one master document.

The mission on behalf of the housing envisioned will not be easy. There will be obstacles to overcome, and there will not be unanimous support.

But Altoona’s long experience in being proactive gives our city an edge in getting something done and getting it done correctly and as efficiently as possible.

There is no time to waste in terms of recruiting the best people possible for the important study and planning that lies ahead.


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