$ 26 million will fund the Pittsburgh residence possession program

Pittsburgh officials have long debated using affordable housing programs and a land bank to bring home ownership to more residents and transform deprived neighborhoods.

On Wednesday, the city announced that its city council will invest $ 26 million in these programs through a new program called “OwnPGH”.

It was unveiled at a press conference on Mayflower Street in the Larimer neighborhood in front of a newly constructed house that the URA is currently selling.

OwnPGH will use $ 22 million in bonds issued by the URA to offer loans to people interested in buying homes in the city. Another $ 4 million in URA cash will be put into a fund to offer deferred second mortgages to cover renovation costs.

“It focuses on ownership. Ownership is a path to wealth and a civic lifestyle, ”said Greg Flisram, Executive Director of URA.

Officials expect to be able to help around 100 families with the money by the fall.

Councilor Ricky Burgess, who heads the board of directors of Pittsburgh Land Bank, announced that Diamonte Walker, the URA’s deputy director, will also head the land bank. Greg Miller, an urban planner for the New York City Planning Department, is hired as manager.

Land Bank, founded in 2014, has faltered due to state laws that oblige land banks to maintain the properties they have acquired. Until the moves announced on Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Land Bank lacked the staff and resources to continue, Burgess said.

But the city has roughly 7,000 vacant real estate officers who would like to get back on the tax lists.

“We have spent the last few years figuring out the nuances of organizing the program,” he said. “Land Bank is now an independent subsidiary of URA. It has the URA staff as a muscle. This is the first step that I think will be a multi-step effort. “

Local officials praised the work of Senator Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, who leads legislation that would make it easier for the land bank to acquire real estate.

“We have to speed up the process,” said Fontana, who is also a broker.

Another part of the OwnPGH program is a change in the way the city’s finance department handles purchases of backyards or vacant lots next to inhabited lots. Purchases can take years due to a backlog in processing the required title reports.

Buyers can now order their own title reports, which should speed up the process.

OwnPGH is bringing together and funding many of the tools the city has worked to develop over the past few years, said Mayor Bill Peduto.

“It doesn’t work without a partnership,” he said.

Tom Davidson is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, tdavidson@triblive.com, or on Twitter.

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