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Pittsburgh Housing Survey Details Ownership Rates, Neighborhood Diversity

“Obviously beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” concludes Jeff Fraser, senior editor for the benchmarking agency PittsburghTODAY, which asked Pittsburghers to assess the condition of their homes.

“When people rate their own homes, they tend to rate them much higher than the city does,” Fraser said. But when we also asked people to rate the conditions of the houses and buildings in their neighborhood other than their own, they tend to be a much harsher critic of their neighbors’ homes and buildings.”

As part of its quality of life survey of southwestern Pennsylvania, PittsburghTODAY explored ownership versus renting, neighborhood diversity and likelihood to move within five years.

The survey found that nearly 80 percent of city residents believes their homes are in good, very good or excellent condition. This compares to the city’s 2009 contracted assessment that rated the conditions of nearly nine in 10 buildings — housing and other structures — as average and 7 percent as good or excellent. 

Fraser noted that women tend to be much harsher critics of the condition of their homes than men: 15 percent of women said their homes were in excellent condition compared to 33 percent of men.

Whether it’s the city of Pittsburgh (59 percent), Allegheny County (72 percent) or the six-county metro area (83 percent), more residents own their homes versus renting. But only if you’re not African American. Thirty-six percent of African Americans in the city own their homes, 38.5 percent in Allegheny County.

“Personally (I’m) not surprised by that,” Fraser said. “There is unfortunate gaps in a number of things, and our survey showed that in our economic categories.”

According to Fraser, most residents are tied to the region. Eighty-four percent said they expected to be living in the 32-county Pittsburgh region five years from now. 

“We have an extremely high rate of people who tend to stay put," he said. "Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t know. I tend to think that in some sense it must speak to the quality of life in this region that people are not moving out.”

However, he added that African Americans, lower income and younger residents were the least likely demographic groups to believe they would still be in the region in five years.

The survey also showed that where you live is a key factor in diversity and perception of race relations. City residents were more likely to indicate that their neighborhood is more diverse, while the majority of residents in the metro area and across the 32 county region described their communities as “not diverse at all.”   

The diversity factor could also be reflected in the questions about race relations. Fifty-six percent of blacks in the region believe that race relations are a severe, moderate or minor problem in their local community, while two of three non-African Americans indicated that race relations are not a problem at all.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm