Pittsburgh Needs 21,000 Affordable Homes, Study Says

DSC01828Mayor Bill Peduto’s newly named Affordable Housing Task Force has daunting numbers to chip away at. For starters, a shortage of 21,000 homes in Pittsburgh that are affordable enough for families of four whose income is $24,000, which is 30 percent of the area’s median income for that size household.

Attorney Robert Damewood of Regional Housing Legal Services called the shortage “severe” and said that throughout Allegheny County, more than 30,000 people live in housing they can’t afford, most paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing. “This makes them very insecure and at risk of eviction.”

The  has just issued a report on a situation it expects to escalate as rents rise in more neighborhoods.

Mr. Damewood researched and prepared the report for the Housing Alliance’s Building Inclusive Communities work group. It recommends the city establish inclusive zoning, assuring a percentage of affordable units in any development, either by mandate or incentives to developers, such as land use approvals, height density bonuses and additional build-outs at no extra cost. In flat markets, a community land trust or land bank can preserve properties for affordable development.

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Movement Underway In NEPA Counties, Cities To Form Land Banks

When General Motors shut down factories in Michigan, the city of Flint lost more than 70,000 auto industry jobs, resulting in an exodus of residents from the 1980s through today that left the city with half the population of its heyday.

The crisis created a cycle of abandonment and blight that prompted the region to create the Genesee County Land Bank, which spearheaded several major redevelopment projects in the city’s downtown, sold 4,683 tax-foreclosed properties from 2004-13 and demolished 3,400 buildings.

Some public officials in Northeastern Pennsylvania cities like Scranton and Hazleton have been thinking of forming their own land banks since Gov. Tom Corbett last year signed legislation enabling cities around the state to do so. Pittston and several neighboring Luzerne County municipalities recently created their own version.

“One issue we all face, that we really have a hard time fighting at the municipal level, is blight,” said Larry West, regional director for state Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald. “We have buildings sitting there on the tax repository list that are boarded up or have burned down.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/movement-underway-in-nepa-counties-cities-to-form-land-banks-1.1806370

Blight Poses Challenges For Distressed Cities

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton is a city of 76,000 people with a housing stock largely built before 1940 for a population almost twice that number.

It has the blight to prove it.

As the financially strapped city struggles to combat blight and the host of ills it fosters, Scranton finds itself in a position common among many Rust Belt communities: many old buildings, too few people willing or able to keep them up and limited resources to press aggressively for a comprehensive solution.

The region’s other two major cities, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton, are dealing with similar issues, though their circumstances don’t precisely mirror Scranton’s.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/blight-poses-challenges-for-distressed-cities-1.1744585

Residents Of Homewood Search For Alternative To Demolishing Houses

Locator map with the Homewood North neighborho...

Locator map with the Homewood North neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania highlighted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Homewood‘s sense of place is eroding so fast that 184 homes have been razed since 2011 and another 232 are condemned. Residents are torn. They value the building stock that attests to better days, but blight is outpacing opportunities to save what’s viable.

Just in time for the neighborhood’s biggest investment in decades, Operation Better Block staff began a door-to-door campaign to motivate hundreds of residents to face this crisis by helping to plan housing strategies.

“Demolition was the only recourse people thought we had,” said Jerome Jackson, executive director of Operation Better Block. Even if it is, he added, people need information to be comfortable with that.

A neighborhood advocacy nonprofit since 1971, Operation Better Block initiated a resident-driven plan for the use of vacant land and buildings two years ago in a test area of 46 parcels near Pittsburgh Faison K-5. The school was a crucial reason to strengthen that area, which is also near the East Busway and the ripest area for investment.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/residents-of-homewood-search-for-alternative-to-demolishing-houses-706527/#ixzz2h3n9teMY

Rewrite Of Pennsylvania Property Tax Sale Laws Is Tool In Blight Fight

Map of Pennsylvania, showing major cities and ...

Map of Pennsylvania, showing major cities and roads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  This can’t happen soon enough!

HARRISBURG – Affordable housing advocates are urging a reform of Pennsylvania’s property tax sale laws to help fight blight in both large cities and small towns.

They want to overhaul a system that allows speculators to obtain a lien on property at tax sales by paying delinquent taxes and yet not go the next step and obtain clear title.

Other legislation being sought would give long-standing residents the opportunity to take ownership of homes in cases where the recorded owner has abandoned them and put more restrictions on who can bid at property tax sales.

Rewriting archaic tax sale laws that date to the 1920s and 1940s is seen as a way to help fiscally distressed cities rebuild their tax bases and help get newly authorized land banks off the ground.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/rewrite-of-property-tax-sale-laws-is-tool-in-blight-fight-1.1414337