Affordable housing fund won't be on November ballot in Pittsburgh
August 10, 2016 12:00 AM
Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle introduced legislation to create a housing “opportunity fund.
by Kate Giammarise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A referendum on whether to create a Pittsburgh affordable housing trust fund will not appear on the November ballot.
Despite gathering more than 13,000 signatures in support of a ballot initiative for Pittsburgh residents to vote on this fall, organizers of the campaign said Tuesday they would instead focus on passing legislation through City Council.
“Given the level of community support we've garnered and the flexibility of potential revenue sources in the currently proposed City Council legislation, we believe there is an effective path forward to full and equitable funding of the Housing Opportunity Fund,” said a statement from Alex Wallace Hanson, field director for the campaign.
The campaign, which was backed by Pittsburgh United, a union-affiliated coalition of local organizations, needed to gather more than 7,500 valid signatures by Tuesday, the deadline for Home Rule Charter petition filings, according to Mark Wolosik, director of the Allegheny County Department of Elections. Petitions must contain signatures of registered voters equal to at least 10 percent of the total vote for governor in the last election in the municipality, or 7,582 for Pittsburgh.
It was unclear why, after weeks of gathering signatures, those behind the ballot issue changed course.
Last month, Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle introduced legislation to create a housing “opportunity fund.” Money in the fund could be used for a number of affordable housing-related activities such as home repairs, home ownership counseling, foreclosure prevention, preservation of deed-restricted affordable housing, rental assistance or rapid re-housing for those who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness, loans or grants to individuals for construction or home rehab, or a number of other activities spelled out in the bill.
The bill doesn’t name a source of revenue, however. The ballot initiative would have imposed a 1 percent realty transfer tax.
“I think [affordable housing] is an issue that council will have to take up when we return from recess,” Mr. Lavelle said Tuesday.
A housing trust fund, funded at $10 million annually, was one of the primary recommendations of an affordable housing task force report earlier this year. The report suggested a number of potential revenue sources, including an increased realty transfer tax, an increased real estate tax, using funds from expiring tax abatements, or several other possibilities. The housing task force said the city faces a shortage of about 17,000 affordable rental units for those earning below 50 percent of the area median income, about $35,600 for a family of four.
Under Mr. Lavelle’s proposal, the fund would be administered by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, with money distributed by a five-member governing board representing the mayor's office, City Council, the URA, low-income tenants and nonprofit developers.
A public hearing on Mr. Lavelle’s bill has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 21.
Kate Giammarise: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.
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