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Housing Opportunity Fund Helping Some Homeowners Pay Down Payments And Closing Costs

Virginia Alvino Young
90.5 WESA
City leaders and new homeowner Natalie Perko (center) at Perko's new home in Brighton Heights

In the North Side neighborhood of Brighton Heights, tucked into a corner on Richardson Street, is a two-story home with yellow siding. Natalie Perko, 33, moved in earlier this month.

“The whole basement is finished with the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room. It needs a lot of work but I’m willing to do it,” said Perko.

Perko said she was in a “sticky situation” in her Dormont apartment, when her landlords wanted her to move out because of her cats. She purchased this home with $5,000 in assistance from the City of Pittsburgh’s Housing Opportunity Fund. It provides $10 million annually to help people prevent evictions and homelessness, repair their homes, and buy their own.

The program that helped Perko is a $750,000 line item in the 2018 fund, which the HOF board says could help 100-120 people purchase homes. The allocation of the 2019 fund is currently before City Council.

As for the down payment and closing cost assistance program, “we opened the application in January,” said Jessica Smith-Perry of the Urban Redevelopment Authority. “We have closed 16 to date but we are getting more and more applications rolling in. The lenders are now learning about it the realtors are learning about it, we’re just getting out more.”

Joanna Deming of the Fineview and Perry Hilltop Citizen’s Council said “homeownership is a really important avenue for building wealth in our country and in our city, and it often isn’t afforded to people with low to moderate income.” She urged Pittsburgh residents to look at the HOF programs as ways to help them whether they’re looking to buy their first home or are facing eviction.

“This shows what it really looks like to work together for the benefit of people,” said Celeste Scott, housing justice organizer for Pittsburgh United, which has been working closely with the City and URA to advance affordable housing. She said she hopes to see more of the HOF funds actually be used in Pittsburgh.  

The down payment and closing cost assistance program is income based and can be used toward any property in the city. People interested in applying can contact the URA directly to learn more.