Mary Ellen Barber said she has been searching for a suitable apartment in the North Hills, for which the landlord would accept a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher as partial payment, but hasn't been able to find one. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

April 2021 Develop PGH Bulletins: Housing authorities get help for families hoping to move out of impoverished areas

Develop PGH Bulletins updates you on the Pittsburgh region's economy, including coverage of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, City Planning Commission and other agencies. Check back frequently, sign up for the Develop PGH newsletter and email with questions, tips or story ideas. 4/30/21: Low-income families to get help finding rentals in well-off neighborhoods
The region's two largest public housing authorities have won nearly $4.1 million in federal funds to help families with housing choice (Section 8) vouchers to move to neighborhoods with lower levels of poverty and more opportunity. The Allegheny County Housing Authority and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh will share $4,089,540 and also get a total of 74 additional vouchers, each of which allows a low-income household to rent housing and pay the landlord 30% of their income, with the government covering the rest. Leaders of the authorities said in September that they wanted to use federal funding to recruit new landlords to their voucher programs, ease the apartment hunting and moving processes for families with children, and cover counseling and other measures to help those families to get acclimated to new neighborhoods.

The family of Jasmine Devine (third from left) including daughters (from left) Jah'Niya, Erionna and Nylah, plus Mary Hester (rear) of LifeVenture Real Estate Services, and Brettney Duck (far right) of Catapult Greater Pittsburgh, walk through Enright Court on March 30, 2021. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

An East Liberty enclave faces change, but this time residents can set down roots

The Devines are only moving one block. But for Jasmine and her three daughters, the impending relocation within a little square called Enright Court is a big jump, and not just because they’ll have a fourth bedroom, plus a bigger yard. They’ll finally own a townhouse, rather than renting. With that, they’ll be gaining some control over their destinies in East Liberty, a neighborhood where demolitions and rising rents have torn many families out by the roots. “I’m building a legacy for them,” said Devine, 32, as she stood in her current driveway with her eldest daughter, Jah’Niya, 13.

Historic photo of Bethel AME Church, a large, Romanesque-style cathedral, amid demolition. A crane hovers over the building, and a few construction workers stand in front.

Pittsburgh’s oldest Black church was demolished as ‘blight’ in the 1950s Lower Hill. Today, members seek justice.

As conversations heat up over development plans for the Lower Hill District, one voice is drawing religious history into the spotlight. Bethel AME Church, founded in 1808, was once a thriving congregation and center of learning and social activism. As part of the Lower Hill redevelopment project of the 1950s, the City of Pittsburgh seized the church by eminent domain and demolished it, despite eminent domain laws excluding churches from their reach. 

Donald Megginson faced an eviction case after he fell behind on rent by $678, according to a court filing. He lives with his partner and two children, ages 8 and 2. He later caught up on the rent and the case was withdrawn. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Could long-term eviction reductions emerge from pandemic programs? A Pittsburgh-based foundation thinks so.

The human and economic costs of eviction far outweigh the price tag of helping people stay housed, according to a report released by The Pittsburgh Foundation*, which lays out a potential path to fewer landlord-tenant cases. The foundation's report comes at a time when federal and local curbs on evictions have pushed landlord filings against tenants well below pre-pandemic norms. Foundation officials contend that the heightened attention to the effects of eviction spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic creates an opportunity to change a system that upends the lives of thousands of Allegheny County families each year. "We have increased knowledge and awareness,'' said Michael Yonas, the foundation's vice president for public health, research and learning. “We’ve had political and legislative action that has helped to protect people during COVID." He added that the respite in filings creates a window of opportunity to improve the system before any return to normal levels of eviction filings.

A map showing the area in which October Development is seeking to take on conservatorship of 97 properties, taken from the company's petition filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

March 2021 Develop PGH Bulletins: ‘Hostile takeover’ or ‘best practice’? Attorney explains massive North Side conservatorship bid

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 with questions, tips or story ideas. 03/30/21: Attorney explains bid for conservatorship of 97 properties
A former City of Pittsburgh attorney who has filed an ambitious conservatorship petition said that it was driven by a developer’s desire to improve a neglected part of the North Side amid slow progress by a community group and government officials. Dan Friedson, who was an assistant city solicitor from 2014 through late 2019, filed a March 5 petition on behalf of East Allegheny-based October Development, seeking conservatorship over 97 properties in and around that neighborhood. Of the properties, 29 are owned by the city, two by the Urban Redevelopment Authority [URA], eight by the Community Association of Spring Garden and East Deutschtown [CASGED] and the rest by an assortment of individuals and apparent businesses or nonprofit entities.