Removed from the bustle of the city’s busier neighborhoods, Pittsburgh’s Troy Hill neighborhood is a bit off the beaten path. Looking out from the hillside is a breathtaking view of the Downtown skyline. Its streets are dotted by family businesses and mid-sized dwellings.
Residents here over the years have forged a community with a small-town feel—a characteristic that community group Troy Hill Citizens is committed to maintaining.
“It just kind of started as the neighborhood nonprofit organization to work between City Council with all the different departments of the city,” said Patrick Duffey, the vice chair of Troy Hill Citizens. “To basically make sure that the needs of the community are met and that people who live in the community have someone to go to when they have an issue or have an idea for the community.”
The organization’s primary goals revolve around a push to increase participation in neighborhood programs, develop camaraderie and beautify the area.
“That's a big push for beautification for clearing off the steps for planting flowers along that major entrance way or mulching some areas and planting flowers, planting trees,” Duffey said.
According to Duffey, an important key to realizing those goals is to harness the power of the community’s more than 2,700 residents.
“A lot of time we’re looking towards the people power that we have here and not necessarily relying on the big dollar grants that in the past we may have gotten as funding becomes tighter and tighter these are harder to get,” Duffey said. “I think you do have to rely on being more creative and relying on the people you have to come and solve the problems that that are your own."
One way the group works to strengthen the connection between its residents and the larger community is by encouraging renters to become homeowners. Through its real estate program, Troy Hills Citizens works with the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group to purchase properties, then resell them to buyers.
Troy Hill Citizens Chair Sam Morris says a preference is given to existing community members who’re currently renting their home.
“We are able to get these properties at a very small fee—usually a couple thousand dollars—and we’re able to sell those to preferably people that are in the neighborhood in order for them to build some equity,” he said.
The program serves a twofold purpose, according to Morris—putting homes in the hands of residents with in interest in keeping up and maintaining them, and ensuring the neighborhood a more stable future by empowering residents to put down roots.
“The preference is given to people that live in Troy Hill, that are familiar with Troy Hill and that are contributing to the neighborhood actively,” Morris said. “We would like to be able to build this kind of internal economy.”
For co-chair Duffey, the beautification projects and real estate program are examples of what neighbors can do when they simply come together around a common goal. He says that by working through Troy Hill Citizens to make the neighborhood more livable, community members are honoring the work of those who came before.
“None of this is really possible without all the hard work that's been done before we got involved,” Duffey said. “This has been going on since the 1970s to put work back into the community to make this a place that people want to stay and want to live."