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.

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.

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.

Lower Hill District parking lots, north of PPG Paints Arena. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

December Develop PGH Bulletins: Allegheny County picks new officer to diversify contracting

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. 12/17/20: Allegheny County hires from within in bid to diversify contracting
Allegheny County has hired a new chief equity and inclusion officer, charged with increasing minority- and women-owned business participation in contracts, according to a press release from County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s office. Lisa Edmonds, a Pittsburgh resident, has been the acting director of the county’s Department of Equity and Inclusion since 2019, and before that served as its deputy director beginning in 2005. According to the release, she was chosen from among nearly 100 candidates for the job.

Amanda Papa, 33, of Coraopolis, was arrested during a mental health crisis in 2018. “The whole thing could’ve just been stopped, and we [would] probably pay the therapist way less than these officers, these courts, all the staff, all the records — everything." (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Resolved to change: Can Allegheny County behavioral crisis teams move fast enough to answer calls for reform?

Someone you love is having a breakdown. They could hurt themselves. Who do you call? If 911 leaps to mind, you’ll likely get a visit in a few minutes — from police, whose training includes behavioral health but is focused more on addressing criminality. If you can remember 1-888-796-8226 (or 1-888-7-YOU-CAN), you’ll get a mental health professional from resolve Crisis Services, a 13-year-old unit of UPMC hired by Allegheny County to handle behavioral incidents.

The Edgar Thomson Steel Works, photographed in January 2020. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

November Develop PGH Bulletins: Bid to frack on Edgar Thomson site goes to court

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.  
11/25/20: Edgar Thomson drilling fight moving to court
A New Mexico company’s bid to frack on U.S. Steel’s land in North Versailles and East Pittsburgh is now in court following a Tuesday appeal filing. Merrion Oil & Gas spent millions preparing to drill on the Edgar Thomson Works site, and the East Pittsburgh Zoning Hearing Board has misinterpreted that borough’s code, according to the company’s Notice of Land Use Appeal filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. The timeline: In December 2017, East Pittsburgh council voted to approve Merrion’s zoning application to conduct drilling-related activities on a sliver of the borough’s land.

A rendering of the proposed Uptown Tech building, slated for the corner of Jumonville Street and the Boulevard of the Allies, presented to Pittsburgh's City Planning Commission on Sept. 29, 2020.

October Develop PGH Bulletins: Uptown Tech proposal gets commission’s OK

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. 10/27/20: Talks on the Hill lead to approval of tech plan
Citing last-minute negotiations between a developer and the Hill Community Development Corp., the City Planning Commission approved the conversion of an abandoned industrial laundry facility into tech and office space. The Uptown Tech project, on Jumonville Street and the Boulevard of the Allies, didn’t get a vote from the commission four weeks ago, after the Hill CDC complained that developer Westrise Capital had not addressed community concerns. This time, attorney Robert Lampl, representing Westrise, said minority- and women-owned business participation in the building conversion would amount to 27% to 42% of the project.

Outside of the Allegheny County Jail building

‘It almost broke me.’ How the pandemic is straining mental health at Allegheny County Jail.

No personal visitors, hardly any time for inmates outside of their cells and chronic vacancies in mental health and health staff raise concerns that the mental health of Allegheny County Jail [ACJ] inmates is deteriorating, according to inmates recently incarcerated there, family members of current inmates, advocates and current and former ACJ staff.