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Fair Housing Task Force Concludes Multi-year Process, Recommendations Presented To City

Gene J. Puskar

Fair housing advocates presented the City of Pittsburgh with an extensive list of policy recommendations this week. It’s the latest step for the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Task Force.

This is the first document of its kind produced by the task force, which represents dozens of organizations across all sectors. Members spent several years examining the policies of other cities, historical practices in Pittsburgh, and gathering feedback from the community.

Those findings were presented to the city’s Commission on Human Relations.

“The task force looked at policies which could address longtime systemic patterns of discrimination in housing, patterns of segregation,” said member and former chair Helen Gerhardt.

The issues the task force looked at ranged from accessibility to non-discriminatory tenant practices and action, to the Section 8 Housing Voucher program.  

Gerhardt said some of the recommendations are fairly simple. “Things that should have been practiced by the city that claims to be progressive, for so long,” she said. Some are newer concepts such as support for community land trusts, which are starting to develop in the area. The report also emphasizes better compliance with existing federal policies, such as the Fair Housing Act, and Americans With Disabilities Act.

In 2018, the city received 24 housing discrimination complaints, although advocates say many go unreported.

Gerhardt said one of her most important takeaways is the potential positive impact of mandatory inclusionary zoning. She said throughout the process of developing the recommendations, she was surprised by the fact that advocates had been pushing for inclusionary zoning for years, but that the city and the mayor’s administration had not done more to implement it. She said it has been proven to improve fair housing in other cities by requiring new development to include some percentage of affordable housing units.

Gerhardt said she would also like to see a mandatory housing assessment for new developments, similar to environmental impact assessments.

The policy recommendations will next be presented to Pittsburgh city council and the mayor.

Gerhardt said the task force’s next step will be advocating for those policies to be implemented, and to do more work developing policies to prevent housing discrimination towards immigrants and refugees.