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Need for rental assistance in Pittsburgh remains high

A for rent sign outside four blue apartment doors.
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

In just two months, the City of Pittsburgh has spent almost a year’s worth of emergency rental assistance money.

Each year, the city's Housing Opportunity Fund provides money to protect affordable housing. For the 2023-2024 fiscal year that began in July, HOF’s advisory board set aside $525,000 for rent help in the Housing Stabilization Program. In just two months that money has helped 200 households avoid eviction — but the entire half-million dollars will be spent in the next few weeks.

“We’re in a unique amount of housing stabilization need,” said Kyle Webster, the vice president of housing and general counsel for the nonprofit Action-Housing. “The haves and have-nots have become even more disparate, housing is more expensive, salaries are not proportionally higher, and a larger number of our neighbors need rental assistance.”

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The money set aside by the HOF is just one funding source in the Allegheny County Housing Stabilization Collaborative, which is being administered by Action. The collaborative still can draw from four other sources: federal COVID aid allocated by the county, two different state grants, and some private foundation money.

“There is still a lot of money” for people who need help making rent, Webster said. Still, the expenditures so far show “the need is just so much higher than we’ve ever seen.”

During a presentation to HOF’s advisory board last week, Webster noted that the city money has been “one of our most flexible funding sources,” and that providing additional funding “sooner will impact even more households.”

URA officials did not respond to a request for comment. But City Councilor Deb Gross echoed the urgent need for help. She said her office still gets calls from renters looking for one-time or short-term help.

“I am definitely going to be talking to our fellow council members who I think would be supportive of additional funding,” she said.