Pittsburgh Housing Authority, Oak Hill managers clash

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A dispute between the city's largest public housing management firm and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh continued today after the agency's board failed to act on a proposed funding change.

Resident leaders and private managers of the Oak Hill development in the Hill District believe they are getting only a fraction of the funding accorded to other authority communities, and have asked the agency to apply to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a change in their funding status.

"We're only getting half, and we're here to question why is that," said Eloise McDonald, of the Oak Hill Resident Council, during the public comment period at the authority's monthly board meeting. "It's not fair. Something's wrong."

Last month the authority opted to ask HUD to include three of its older communities -- but not the 15-year-old Oak Hill -- in a new Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD, program. That program stabilizes funding for the included communities and makes it easier to borrow against future subsidies.

"We did not take the RAD application to the board" this month, authority Executive Director Caster Binion said. "We're negotiating with [Oak Hill]."

Miles Byrne, project director with Beacon/Corcoran Jennison, which runs Oak Hill, said that the authority will now miss the Dec. 31 deadline to seek RAD status for the community, which has 475 low-income public housing units and 243 market-rate units.

Mr. Binion said the issue can be revisited next year, expressing confidence that HUD will extend and expand the program.

Mr. Byrne said that was "happy talk, as they say in Ireland."

"We are shocked that this board did this, and we look forward to mayor [Bill] Peduto's administration," Mr. Byrne said.

Mayor-elect Peduto takes office next month.

Mr. Byrne has maintained that HUD provides the authority with around $6.5 million a year in relation to Oak Hill's public housing units, but that the authority only passes $3.25 million on to the community. Mr. Binion has not disputed those numbers, but has said that all funding received has been properly spent on improving and maintaining low-income housing citywide.

"We support the residents of Oak Hill and we make sure their needs are met," Mr. Binion said today.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord.

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