PITTSBURGH, PA (March 10, 2021) Mayor William Peduto and the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh today announced the launch of OwnPGH, a bond-funded single-family home acquisition and rehab program, and provided updates on the Pittsburgh Land Bank and other tools that will support affordable home ownership and neighborhood blight-fighting tools citywide.
The centerpiece of OwnPGH is a $22 million bond issuance to finance a fund that will lower barriers to the acquisition of single-family homes throughout the City of Pittsburgh. The URA also plans a separate fund to help homebuyers cover rehabilitation costs.
At a press conference in Larimer, Mayor Peduto, Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess, URA Executive Director Greg Flisram and Deputy Executive Director Diamonte Walker also announced organizational changes to improve the land acquisition efforts of the Pittsburgh Land Bank and a new initiative by the City Department of Finance to ease the acquisition of side yards.
The press conference was held outside at a newly constructed affordable home on Mayflower Street by the URA’s Pittsburgh Housing Development Corporation (PHDC). It is near to five other affordable new construction units by the PHDC on the street, as well as up to three more being built next year on nearby Carver Street.
“Cumulatively these efforts of OwnPGH will not only get vacant homes and lots back onto tax rolls, but improve neighborhood quality of life and help Pittsburghers accomplish the dream of home ownership,” Mayor Peduto said.
The $22 million fund will offer competitive interest rates to interested borrowers wishing to acquire homes to serve as their primary residences. The bond debt will be repaid over the life of the mortgages as the borrowers repay their mortgages.
In addition, the URA plans to use $4 million of its existing Mortgage Revenue Bond Proceeds account to fund deferred second mortgages to help buyers finance home rehabilitation costs. Up to 20% of the property’s purchase price, or $40,000 per property, whichever is less, will be made available to borrowers in the form of a deferred second mortgage.
The URA anticipates a summer bond issuance and late summer or early fall rollout of the program. The URA board is set to vote on the program Thursday.
At the Pittsburgh Land Bank (PLB) meeting Friday, Councilman Rev. Burgess, the board chairman, is set to announce that URA Deputy Executive Director Walker is assuming the position of PLB Executive Director and Greg Miller is becoming the PLB’s new manager. Miller, originally from southwestern Pennsylvania, is currently a Senior Urban Designer at the New York City Department of City Planning and will start in early April.
The leadership changes are part of URA efforts to provide more staffing and expertise to support the PLB’s mission.
The changes are coming in tandem with a partnership between State Sen. Wayne Fontana and Mayor Peduto to help the land bank more efficiently acquire vacant and distressed properties and get them back onto the tax rolls. The Senator plans to introduce legislation that would make it easier for the PLB to acquire properties at sheriff’s sales at amounts equal to the outstanding claims and liens against the properties regardless of bids by other parties, similar to the powers granted to Philadelphia’s successful land bank.
Finally, OwnPGH includes a new effort by the Finance Department to make the purchase of vacant, city-owned side yards easier for homeowners.
Currently, after a purchaser has applied to purchase a side yard and has been deemed an approved buyer, the City orders a title report on the property detailing its legal status, outstanding taxes and liens, and ownership history. Unfortunately, the process can take years to complete, as the City has a backlog of some 100 title reports stretching back three years.
The Finance Department now plans to tell purchasers to order their own title reports, which is already required of buyers of all other City properties, and should speed up the side yard process by giving interested buyers incentive to finish the title reports quickly and allow them to use the title vendor of their choice.