Pittsburgh City Council takes steps to approve realty tax increase, unveils plan to put money into affordable housing fund

Pittsburgh’s City Council with a preliminary vote on Wednesday supported the 0.5 percent increase of the Realty Transfer Tax [RTT] to help fill the Housing Opportunity Fund. That will allow the city to pay for affordable housing projects and initiatives. Additional support for the fund will come from closed-out trust funds and surpluses pulled across city departments. Filling the Housing Opportunity Fund with $10 million yearly was one of the chief recommendations the city’s Affordable Housing Task Force made in May 2016. The road council took to finally allocate funding for affordable housing has been fraught, especially in recent months.

Watch your step: How Pittsburgh businesses can satisfy accessibility rules and still not be open to people with disabilities

The Americans With Disabilities Act [ADA] passed nearly 30 years ago, requiring buildings to become accessible to people with disabilities, whether with automatic doors, grab bars or ramps. Decades later, ADA compliance remains spotty, especially in many of the older buildings that fill Pittsburgh's bustling business districts.

Public transit in the Pittsburgh area is at risk for ‘drastic’ cuts under state budget proposal

A plan introduced Wednesday to balance the state budget threatens a significant amount of funding to the Allegheny County Port Authority and could result in its public transit system having to cut operations by up to half. A proposed cut of $80 million to the agency could mean cuts twice as deep as what the agency sustained several years ago when it was left with a $35 million deficit. Port Authority Spokesman Adam Brandolph said the 2011 and 2012 cuts in state funding and the resulting deficit caused the agency to eliminate 29 bus routes, close the Harmar garage and lay off 200 employees. “These [cuts] would be similar if not much worse,” he said. “We would anticipate these cuts to be just as drastic if not twice as drastic.”

Proposed cuts to various pots of state money — including funds that are allocated to public transit — were the Republican lawmakers’ way of proposing a balanced state budget more than two months after the deadline has passed.