Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pittsburgh URA will use $3.5 million in ARPA funds to clean up blight on URA-owned properties

A brick house with broken windows.
Kate Giammarise
90.5 WESA
This URA-owned property will be among those targeted in a new URA program that aims to clean up some of the agency's blighted properties.

The house on Michigan Street in Pittsburgh’s Beltzhoover neighborhood stands out: with smashed windows, graffiti, missing bricks, and a large blue sign labeling it condemned, it’s an eyesore on the brick-lined residential street.

The property’s owner? The city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Officials at Pittsburgh’s URA say properties like this one are the target of a new blight-fighting program — one that’s aimed at the URA’s own vast holdings. The authority owns roughly 1,300 real estate parcels, with about 85 structures city-wide. The agency estimates it has decades of deferred maintenance on its own properties, likely totaling about $15.9 million, according to executive director Susheela Nemani-Stanger.

A new $3.5 million pilot program officials discussed at their March board meeting aims to tackle 14 of these blighted properties in Beltzhoover, the Hill District, Homewood, Larimer and Knoxville. The funds will come from American Rescue Plan dollars, redirected from the city’s Land Bank.

“This effort is under the framework of violence reduction through blight remediation,” Nemani- Stanger told URA board members last week. “We are seeking to stabilize and activate publicly owned, vacant properties citywide that pose a danger to the communities that they are in due to their conditions.”

This property is for sale as part of a URA program.
Kate Giammarise / 90.5 WESA
This property is for sale as part of a URA program.

Officials acknowledge the program can only address a small portion of a large problem but believe it’s an important start.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have funding in order to stabilize our properties and activate this publicly-owned, vacant portfolio,” Nemani-Stanger said.

The program will work in stages, with the first phase being stabilization of the properties that are still salvageable, repairs such as new roofs, new doors, new windows, interior cleanup, and other repairs, said Laya Mathews, a project manager at the URA. The second phase will be demolition of properties that are beyond repair, and the third phase will include infrastructure improvements, she said. The properties were identified based on levels of need in the area, in addition to the agency wanting to make improvements within walking areas of local schools.

“It's important for the URA to be good stewards of our publicly owned property and also create safer neighborhoods,” Nemani-Stanger said.

Officials said they’re hoping to have "For Sale" signs up on properties by June and hope to create affordable rental housing and homeownership opportunities through existing URA programs.

If the pilot goes well, Nemani-Stanger said it could potentially lead to raising money through other sources in the future to address more URA properties.

Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.