Update (1/19/23): Aspiring first-time homebuyers in the City of Pittsburgh will be able to apply for access to millions in federal funds starting on Jan. 31. 

The Urban Redevelopment Authority announced the opening of the OwnPGH program during a URA board meeting Thursday. The city’s economic development agency first approved of the guidelines for OwnPGH in October, beginning the process of steering $15 million from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act [ARPA] allocation to first-time homebuyers. 

Alicia Majors, the URA’s homeownership manager, said that beginning on Jan. 31 people who have never owned a home before and make 80% or less of the area’s median income [AMI] will be able to apply for up to $90,000 in funds. OwnPGH will provide grants of up to $50,000, and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh [HACP] will add an additional $40,000 in deferred mortgages. The deferred mortgage would be forgiven after 10 years if the homeowner doesn’t sell their house. 

Majors said the program would be an important tool to help people buy houses who might not otherwise be able to compete in the housing market.

Reported 10/13/22: A program to help first-time homebuyers in Pittsburgh is one step closer to disbursing funds after the board of the city’s economic development agency gave its final approval.

The Urban Redevelopment Agency [URA] board approved OwnPGH’s guidelines, steering $15 million from the American Rescue Plan Act [ARPA] to first time homebuyers. The board did not specify when the program would begin disbursing funds but the URA aims to help at least 50 homebuyers in the program’s first year of operation. The board will make the announcement of OwnPGH’s official rollout at a future meeting.

The URA and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh [HACP] will operate OwnPGH. The program will help homebuyers who make 80% or less of the area median income [AMI]. OwnPGH will provide grants of up to $50,000 and HACP will add an additional $40,000 in deferred mortgages.

In the Pittsburgh area, 80% of the AMI for a household of one is $53,100, and for a household of four it’s $75,850.

Homebuyers funded through OwnPGH would be limited, for 30 years, to selling the property to other buyers who make 80% of AMI or less. 

In determining how many people the program could help, Evan Miller, URA’s manager of residential lending, said that “there are a number of factors to consider including rising interest rates that we’re seeing. But we’re hoping to start moving people at a pretty decent clip.”

The URA board approved the program guidelines unanimously and the program will activate after an agreement is executed between the City of Pittsburgh and the URA.

The URA is required to approve the program’s guidelines before it can finalize an ARPA recipient agreement with the City of Pittsburgh. 

The OwnPGH program rollout will commence after an ARPA recipient agreement is executed between the city and URA, according to the URA director’s report. 

Affordable senior living coming to Fairywood

The URA board approved the sale of a parcel of land in Fairywood to a New Jersey-based development company to build an age-restricted housing project with an affordable housing element. 

Under the agreement, the URA agreed to sell the former Fairywood School to Cedar Wood Homes Holding LLC for $434,900. 

As part of the sale, the board also approved final plans to turn the property into 46 one-bedroom senior housing units. Five of the units would be available only to people who make 20% of AMI or less. Another 19 units would be for people making 50% of AMI or less and 15 units would be at 60% AMI. Seven units would be market rate.

Last year, The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency awarded a 9% Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to fund the project. The developer, Tryko Partners, approached the URA with their proposal to purchase the land and use the tax credit. 

The development will be on Broadhead Fording Road, with the units in 12 single-story buildings and a community center.

“This disposition is the final hurdle to completion and putting shovels in the ground within 60 days,” said Isaac Sassoon, Tryko’s senior vice president during the URA board’s meeting. “This is an important project for affordable housing. It’s the first affordable housing project in the West End for several decades.”

Skinny/Roberts buildings to be sold

PNC Bank will be the new owner of the Skinny Building and Roberts Building on 241 Forbes Ave. and 429-431 Wood St., respectively. 

The URA board approved selling the buildings to PNC for $1,300,000 along with an agreement on the bank’s use of the buildings. 

The three-story, 988 square foot Skinny Building will undergo renovation and an arts program will go in the upper floors, with pilot incubation spaces for small retail businesses at street level. PNC will be responsible for featuring the works of local artists and students, in a program run with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

The Roberts Building will also be renovated to convert the five-story 13,682 square foot building into office space. 

The total development costs for the bank are estimated to be $10.5 million, including $5.9 million in direct investment into the buildings. 

The URA purchased the buildings in 2013, and they are contributing historic structures in the nationally registered Fourth Avenue Historic District, dating back to the early 1900s. 

To ensure the buildings aren’t altered on the outside, the URA entered into a 99-year covenant agreement with PNC guaranteeing the protection of the façades and preventing potential future owners from demolishing the buildings.

Eric Jankiewicz is PublicSource’s economic development reporter, and can be reached at ericj@publicsource.org or on Twitter @ericjankiewicz.

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Eric Jankiewicz is a reporter focused on housing and economic development for PublicSource. A native New Yorker, Eric moved to Pittsburgh in 2017 and has since fallen in love with his adopted city, even...