Councilman Bobby Wilson Introduces Legislation to Reduce Zoning Burdens on Child Care Facilities

 

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Pittsburgh, PA (October 24, 2023)—Pittsburgh City Councilman Bobby Wilson (District 1) and Councilwoman Deborah Gross (District 7) introduced legislation this week to amend the City of Pittsburgh’s Zoning Code to allow for child care facilities within single-family residentially zoned neighborhoods and accessory structures and to eliminate parking requirements for such facilities. This legislation was drafted in collaboration with the Office of Mayor Ed Gainey and the Department of City Planning, and with the invaluable guidance of Zoning Administrator Corey Layman and Kate Rakus, Land Use Policy and Code Implementation Coordinator.

“I’m excited to introduce these changes to the Zoning Code to expand access to childcare facilities within the City of Pittsburgh. Being a father of three young children, I understand the challenges many families face in finding high-quality, accessible child care within their neighborhood,” said Councilman Wilson. “Removing these burdensome zoning and parking requirements in residentially zoned neighborhoods allows us to provide child care services to working families right where they live. This is an obvious first step to making child care more accessible in our City.”

Councilwoman Gross has been working on policies affecting the business of child care for decades. During her time on City Council, she has championed efforts to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial support for local child care businesses, including at-home providers. As co-sponsor of this legislation, she added, “These amendments to the Zoning Code eliminate unnecessary barriers to starting a child care facility, businesses that are overwhelmingly owned and operated by women. Allowing for these business owners to operate out of their homes, and in the communities they serve, is vital to increasing access to child care for our residents."

The Zoning Code defines a child care facility as “an establishment that provides care, protection and supervision for children on a regular basis away from their primary residence for less than 24 hours per day.” It currently requires a “Special Exception,” to be reviewed by the Zoning Board of Administration, to allow for child care facilities in single-family residentially zoned neighborhoods.

This legislation will do the following:

  1. Allow facilities that will care for up to six children to be permitted by-right within R1D (single-unit detached residential) and R1A (single-unit attached residential) zoning districts.
  2. Exempt childcare accessory units from current home occupation standards when they take care of 3 or less children and where the home is the primary residence of the child care provider.
  3. Remove off-street parking minimums and maximums for child care facilities.
  4. Add accessory in-home child care for 3 or less children where the home is the primary residence of the child care provider to the list of exemptions for a record of zoning approval.

Emily Neff, Director of Public Policy at Trying Together, applauded this effort by Pittsburgh City Council to make these crucial changes to the Zoning Code. "Home-based providers play a critical role in the early care and education landscape—offering smaller group sizes, more flexible schedules, and usually, more affordability. Often home-based providers serve the families in their neighborhood, providing a safe, nurturing, and inclusive environment for children while families go to work. The proposed changes to remove barriers in the Zoning Code will allow for more home-based providers to open and operate. This will help the city increase access to quality child care and expand the options available to families."

For many families, including those within the City of Pittsburgh, securing child care is a perennial source of stress. More than three-quarters of all families report that they have had difficulty finding a child care space for their children, and 70% of them note that this difficulty affects their ability to work. Recently, Pittsburgh City Council passed legislation allocating funds to provide City employees with on-site child care when Pittsburgh Public Schools close but the City is open or when parents are attending community events sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, such as budget meetings or public hearings.

Anne Flynn Schlicht, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, together with Patricia Stanko, who facilitates the Business of Child Care Program offered by this center, noted, “Since 2021, this Center has been offering this training program and advising potential business owners on the steps to opening a child care business in the City of Pittsburgh. Securing a location that meets all the regulations continues to be the biggest obstacle for both new providers and existing child care providers looking to expand. While there are many factors to consider when selecting a location for a child care business, changes to the zoning requirements and streamlining the process would be extremely helpful in furthering the licensing process for prospective child care providers in the City of Pittsburgh.”

This proposed update to the City’s Zoning Code continues work already done by City Council.  In 2019, Council allocated $2 million to establish the Childcare Quality Fund. Since September 2021, this fund has distributed money for a variety of childcare initiatives across the City of Pittsburgh, ranging from facility renovations and purchases of supplies, that has helped keep childcare facilities open through the COVID-19 pandemic.

For press inquiries, please contact Councilman Wilson’s Chief of Staff, Mohammed Burny, at (412) 215-0528 or mohammed.burny@pittsburghpa.gov.

 

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