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Pittsburgh's Proposed Capital Budget Slices More Than $5M from URA

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

In Pittsburgh's proposed 2019 Capital Budget, financial support to the Urban Redevelopment Authority would drop by more than $5 million dollars from this year, leaving the proposed total budget at $4.6 million. The line item slashed most dramatically is Economic Development and Housing, which would go from $5.3 million to $1.1 million.

At a City Council hearing last week, URA Executive Director Robert Rubinstein said the money allocated to the Authority in the budget falls "woefully short."

In a statement, URA spokesperson Gigi Saladna said the city's funding to the URA helps it provide financial and technical support for programs that benefit low-income neighborhoods.

"Our investment of these important resources into job-creating businesses and properties provides tangible returns in increased tax revues to the taxing bodies," she wrote.

At a City Council public hearing on the budget Wednesday, several community members expressed concern about the proposed reductions to URA funding. Gale Schwartz of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania asked Council to consider increasing the Authority's 2019 budget to be equal to or greater than 2018 levels.

"As our city's economy continues to strengthen, we need all resources for affordable housing to ensure that all people in all neighborhoods can benefit from growth and development, along with everybody else," she said.

James Myers Jr., director of community and business development at the Riverside Center for Innovation, echoed this sentiment. The organization works closely with the URA to support minority-owned small businesses.

"RCI strongly encourages Pittsburgh City Council to recognize the importance of the URA and restore funding," he said. "So that Pittsburgh can continue to make strides towards becoming a place for equitible and inclusive development."

At this week's hearing, some Council members said they would look into increasing the 2019 budget for the URA. Council will make changes to the budget and send it to the Mayor, who must approve it by the end of the year.

Last year, Peduto's proposed 2018 Capital Budget also drew ire from the URA, as the Authority's property maintenance was left unfunded. $400,000 was ultimately budgeted for the line item in the final budget.

Though the final 2018 budget allocated $9.1 million to the authority –$4.5 million more than the 2019 budget proposal – spokesperon Saladna said additional federal affordable housing funds were budgeted to the URA throughout the year.