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URA Funding Cuts Will Hurt Affordable Housing, Activists Say

Jake Savitz
90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s proposed 2019 capital budget could cut funding for the Urban Redevelopment Authority by more than $5 million. URA officials say that limits their ability to invest in neighborhoods.

At a budget hearing last week, executive director Robert Rubinstein said the funding available from federal and state sources hasn’t been enough to support the priorities and rhetoric of the city.

“We’ve gone from $19 million available about a decade ago to invest throughout neighborhoods, to now slightly more than $3 million,” he said. “It’s a significant decrease.”

The proposed $4.1 million cut to the URA’s Economic Development and Housing bucket worries activists the most. They say it will hinder creation and preservation of affordable housing in the city; they are concerned the URA will have to make up the money by pulling from the Housing Opportunity Fund. 

The URA administers the Housing Opportunity Fund through a cooperation agreement with the city. The fund's enabling legislation explicitly stated that its annual $10 million allocation would not supplant existing funds, said longtime affordable housing activist Craig Stevens.

“Meaning it was supposed to add to the little bit of money the city does get to pursue affordable housing and economic development activities for low-income people and communities,” he said.

Councilor Corey O’Connor said the Housing Opportunity Fund allocation remains unchanged, and they're trying to restore URA funds. 

"Council will have a final say in what money goes where at the end of the day," he said. "This was a budget that was presented to us and now we're all working together, including the mayor's office, to try and work this out."  

The URA is one of Pittsburgh’s primary engines of development, and supports a range of housing activities. Pittsburgh is short roughly 20,000 units of affordable housing.