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Reassessment Appeals Assistance Gets Green Light

Some Pittsburgh homeowners who plan to appeal their newly reassessed property values might get assistance from the city, but exactly who would qualify is up for debate.

Pittsburgh City Council has given preliminary approval to a program that would provide free legal advice and appraisal services to those homeowners whose properties were worth $150,000 or less in 2011, though that qualification might change.

The office of City Controller Michael Lamb is slated to run the program. In addition to providing legal aid ranging from consultations to appeals filing, the Controller's office would also hire several companies to appraise homes in preparation for appeals hearings. The program is expected to cost $150,000.

The affirmative recommendation of the legislation came only after Council amended it to exclude landlords who live outside the city. Several Council Members are also considering changing the qualification criteria to be income-based, rather than based on one's 2011 property value.

"I think Council President [Darlene Harris] is concerned about helping folks who don't live in the city; okay, we don't want to do that, or commercial real estate. They have the wherewithal to manage that," said Councilman Patrick Dowd. "We also don't need to be helping folks who can afford an appraisal themselves."

The legislation may be amended to reflect that attitude before it comes up for final passage on Tuesday. Wednesday's preliminary approval was unanimous, and the bill is likely to pass without a hitch next week.

The deadline to file formal appeals is April 2.