Photo from the post agenda meeting on July 20.

By Alyse Horn

Over a year ago, Mayor Bill Peduto appointed an Affordable Housing Task force, made up of many experts, advocates, and community representatives to address the need for affordable housing in the City.

The task force has been working for over a year and came up with recommendations and priorities, the top priority being a $10 million Housing Trust Fund that would create “a devoted revenue source that is locally controlled and can rise to meet the community’s greatest housing need and also fill the gaps that are left by other affordable housing programs,” said Gale Schwartz at a post agenda meeting on July 20. Schwartz is with the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania and also a member of the Affordable Housing Task Force.

“When looking at the challenges faced in the Pittsburgh market, the greatest unmet housing need in Pittsburgh currently exists for extremely low income households,” Schwartz said.

Low income households are families that make less than 30% of the area medium income, or a family of four that is living off of $24,000 per year.

Mark Masterson, executive director of the Northside Community Development Fund and also a member of the task force, also spoke at the July 20 meeting and said this is “the first real opportunity for neighborhood development and housing development in more than 15 years” in the city. The money appointed towards the trust fund can be used in every neighborhood in the city for varying needs.
Councilman Reverend Ricky Burgess said during the meeting that it is a necessity to have affordable housing everywhere in the city, and said he is in full support of the trust fund and the need to find the $10 million needed per year over the next 10 years. Burgess said that to fully fund this trust fund is sending a signal to the country and to Pittsburgh, that “people who work hard count.”

Adrienne Walnoha, the chief executive officer at Community Human Services, expressed anger that it has taken so long to have a conversation about affordable housing in Pittsburgh, but also said she was thrilled it is finally happening.

“Housing is a basic right and a need,” Walnoha said. “The numbers of people who do not have stability in housing are staggering.”

According to Bill #2016-0602, some eligible uses for the funds are the preservation of existing affordable housing through rehabilitation or repair, homeownership counseling pre or post purchase, foreclosure prevention and mitigation, tangled title assistance and energy efficiency (to keep the cost of ownership of homes affordable). The funds can also be used to increase the accessibility of new and existing affordable housing to seniors and people with disabilities, and to increase the production of affordable housing for sale or rental to ensure that communities experiencing rapid growth and escalating housing costs continue to have Family Sustaining Rental Housing, and ensure that very low income families have opportunities to live in safe neighborhoods with good access to public transit, jobs, good schools, childcare, grocery stores and other amenities that families need to improve their and their children’s health, safety and economic self-sufficiency.