Affordable housing advocates plead with Pittsburgh City Council for restored funding

Affordable housing advocates plead with Pittsburgh City Council for restored funding

Author: Atiya Irvin-Mitchell/Wednesday, December 12, 2018/Categories: Pittsburgh

With signs that alleged empty promises, affordable housing advocates advanced on Pittsburgh City Council chambers to plead with council to restore their funding for the 2019 capital budget.

When Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto proposed his budget for the new year, many advocates were disturbed to learn that their financial support from the city would decrease by $5 million, leaving the authority with $1.1 million from the capital budget.

According to the advocates who testified, these cuts would worsen Pittsburgh’s already fraught housing crisis. Activists such as Crystal Jennings, an affordable housing organizer for Pittsburgh United, said that decreasing the authority’s funding so significantly would be unjust and hurt the city’s poorest residents.

“There is a shortage of 20,000 units that are affordable and available to households earning half of the city’s median income,” Jennings said. “This is not only unacceptable, this feels like a betrayal. This is unjust. We need more affordable housing not less.”

After weeks of public testimony and a request from the authority’s executive director during the budget hearing council amended the budget to allow the URA $2.5 million in block grants.

Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle (District-6), who sits on the authority’s board as council’s representative promised that none of the opportunity fund’s money will be used to make up for the cuts.

“I understand their concerns, I share their concerns and I’m committed to doing all I can to address the affordable housing crisis within the city,” he said. “This won’t restore all of the funding but it will restore some of it.”

However advocates like Celeste Scott, another organizer for Pittsburgh United, felt that the funding needed to be not only restored, but increased.

Scott, who also serves on the Housing Opportunity Fund Advisory Board, says the cuts will undo the progress of creating the fund to begin with.

“Standing here today after all the hard work we’ve done is really hard for me,” Scott said. “When I remember all of the people I take phone calls from everyday suffering the current housing crisis, I shudder to think of how they’d be impacted by the 2019 budget being cut.”

She added that it was unfair that other areas such as public works could look forward to increases in the coming years while the authority’s continues to shrink.

“This would be a five year low for housing,” Scott told council. “I see the money for paving is going up, but I feel like people will be living on the streets if we don’t solve this housing crisis.

Other advocates voiced outright disappointment at the Peduto administration and council for what, in their view, showed a lack of regard for Pittsburgh’s most marginalized. Ronnell Guy, managing director of the Landless People's Alliance, echoed concerns that the cuts would worsen homelessness in the city.

“Shame on you all,” Guy said. “We’ve had a housing crisis for the last decade and every single one of you know that this will impact the most vulnerable people in the city.”

Guy accused the city of reneging on their commitment to affordable housing and abandoning the marginalized residents.

“We worked and worked to secure that money and you’re trying to backdoor us,” she said. “What kind of people do that to single mothers and veterans and people you know need help?”

Prior to passing the amendment, council members present insisted they were committed to affordable housing within the city.

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell a staff writer for The PLS Reporter based in Pittsburgh. Have a question, comment or tip? Email her at atiya@mypls.com.

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