A handwritten note received by Ebony Long, mother of three, from her landlord, giving her "30 days to leave" the Perry North house which she now rents. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Develop PGH Bulletins: Pittsburgh council votes to bar pandemic evictions, but questions remain

Develop PGH Bulletins updates you on the Pittsburgh region's economy, including close coverage of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, City Planning Commission and other important agencies. Please check back frequently, sign up for the Develop PGH newsletter and email rich@publicsource.org with questions, tips or story ideas. 3/2/21: Pittsburgh council votes to bar pandemic evictions, but questions remain
Pittsburgh City Council unanimously approved legislation that would largely bar the filing by landlords of eviction cases against city residents during the pandemic emergency, despite concerns on the part of some officials that the legislation may be difficult to enforce. Councilwoman Deb Gross, who has been spearheading the bid for a citywide eviction moratorium, amended her own bill, requiring that landlords seek a waiver from the Commission on Human Relations before filing to oust a tenant. The commission could then grant the landlord permission to file for eviction if a tenant was a threat to themselves, or others, or was engaging in criminal activity.

Ebony Long, 35, of Perry North sits on the staircase of the rental house from which her landlord is trying to evict her. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

February 2021 Develop PGH Bulletins: Pittsburgh City Council votes to limit evictions, over landlord objections

Develop PGH Bulletins updates you on the Pittsburgh region's economy, including close coverage of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, City Planning Commission and other important agencies. Please check back frequently, sign up for the Develop PGH newsletter and email rich@publicsource.org with questions, tips or story ideas. 2/24/21: New eviction rules in Pittsburgh clear first vote
Pittsburgh City Council took an initial step toward adding a new set of hurdles to eviction but will likely spend the coming days weighing possible amendments to further protect tenants. Council voted, without dissent, for legislation that would:

Largely bar any landlord action from evicting tenants, within the city, who are behind on rent due to loss of employment or medical expenses
Bar landlords from terminating tenants’ leases or refusing to renew them
Carve out exceptions if a tenant is engaged in criminal activity or presents an “imminent threat” to the health or safety of other residents, or violates building codes or health ordinances
Fine landlords as much as $10,000 for violations
Expire either when the city lifts its current disaster declaration or council terminates the protections. The vote came after lengthy discussion about proposed amendments that could:

Explicitly extend protections to tenants who are defendants in eviction cases that are already pending in court
More clearly bar evictions except for “good cause,” which would not include expirations of leases
Give the city Commission on Human Relations a role in enforcement.

View of Downtown Pittsburgh from near the site of the former Civic Arena, where the Penguins are leading a redevelopment effort, in February 2021. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Crossing a line? A boundary change adds to tension between the Penguins and a key Hill District group

Update (3/1/2021): Mayor Bill Peduto's administration on Feb. 28 released to PublicSource a March 4, 2019 letter from the mayor to Gov. Tom Wolf, expressing support for a plan "to petition the Internal Revenue Service" to make the former Civic Arena site part of the Hill District Opportunity Zone. "The Lower Hill site is critically linked to the adjacent Opportunity Zone, and its inclusion within the Opportunity Zone is necessary for revitalization of the Greater Hill District," according to the letter. Federal Opportunity Zones include 8,760 census tracts chosen according to economic distress. The letter does not specifically ask for a change in census tract boundaries, which ultimately occurred in February 2021, and had the effect of making the arena site eligible for Opportunity Zone financing.

Affordable for-sale housing at the front door of the mayoral election

Housing prices nearly quadrupled in Fineview over the decade ending in 2018, and there’s no reason to believe that’s reversed since, according to neighborhood advocate Joanna Deming. The plus side: The increases are a symptom of the North Side neighborhood’s desirability, said Deming, executive director of both the Fineview Citizens Council and the Perry Hilltop Citizens Council. The minus: “So we’re seeing those rents go up! …We want to make sure we protect our residents first.”

Deming spoke inside a freshly renovated, affordable rental house on Fineview’s Lanark Street, where the citizens council’s plans call for some 20 new or remodeled houses, all priced for modest incomes, and mostly for sale, rather than for rent. She is cobbling together funding packages including money from the state, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Allegheny County and private sources.

Skyline Terrace, a mixed-income housing complex, developed by the Housing Authority for the City of Pittsburgh. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

January 2021 Develop PGH Bulletins: New affordable housing, at a more affordable price?

Develop PGH Bulletins updates you on the Pittsburgh region's economy, including close coverage of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, City Planning Commission and other important agencies. Please check back frequently, sign up for the Develop PGH newsletter and email rich@publicsource.org with questions, tips or story ideas. 1/28/21: Housing Authority bolsters synagogue rehab
Last month, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh [HACP] pledged to be more aggressive and innovative in its efforts to spur affordable housing. At its first meeting of 2021, HACP’s board provided an early example by increasing its investment in the pending conversion of the former Congregation B’Nai Israel synagogue, in Garfield, into housing. The stately synagogue, on North Negley Avenue, was most recently an Urban League of Pittsburgh charter school, and is to be converted by a team of developers reportedly including Downtown-based Ralph A. Falbo Inc. and Boston-based Beacon Development.

From left to right: construction technician Don Bivins hauls debris from an Oakland house in February; Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and others ceremonially shovel at a condo groundbreaking in the Strip District in October; East Pittsburgh Borough Manager Seth Abrams points to the site of a proposed fracking operation in January. (Photos by Ryan Loew and Jay Manning/PublicSource)

21, 20, 19 … As Pittsburgh counts down to a new year amid the COVID-19 economy, 2020’s development questions await 2021’s answers.

The 2020 economy ends with many questions for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, and we can only hope that 2021 will answer some of them. Through early January, we’ll raise some of those questions on this page, recap 2020 developments, and share some forward-looking insights. Do you have an economic development question? Email it to rich@publicsource.org. We can’t promise that we have the answer, but we’ll provide whatever intel we can.

People walk along Johnston Avenue in Glen Hazel, near townhomes owned by an affiliate of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

‘Throwing everything against the wall,’ Pittsburgh’s housing authority aims to dent lengthy waiting lists

As Pittsburgh households waiting for subsidized housing continue to outnumber those receiving such benefits, the agency charged with bridging that gap is dishing bonuses to landlords, floating subsidies to developers and more. “So we do have a crisis” in regard to affordable housing, Caster Binion, executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh [HACP], said in a December interview with PublicSource. “Rents are going up. So we’re throwing everything against the wall.”

Binion leads an agency responsible for sheltering some 7,755 households, either in its own apartments or those paid through the Housing Choice Voucher program, known as Section 8. At the end of November, there were 11,828 households on the authority’s waiting lists.

Brandi Cox, left, and her mother Nancy Cox-Gilmore stand in front of Nancy's house on Huey Street in McKeesport. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

‘A big elephant in the room.’ A McKeesport mother’s months-long battle to save her house has her home for the holidays, with a deadline looming.

When Nancy Cox-Gilmore faced eviction, she made phone calls, talked with whoever would listen, and prayed. And when those prayers were answered, she shared her good fortune widely — until, over just a few months this year, her efforts nearly cost her everything. As snow fell gently on McKeesport this month, Nancy stood outside of her faintly leaning house on Huey Street, recalling the desperate winter of 1999. During the first week of that year, a district judge approved her eviction from a rental house on Jersey Street. As she awaited her March 2 appeal hearing, she had nowhere to take her children and foster kids.