Place. It has the power to unlock or limit opportunity—economic, social, health, education. We cannot deny its centrality in life outcomes—for many, where one lives largely determines life trajectory. We also acknowledge the agency of people to define, make, and grow place. For without people, place loses meaning. How do we empower people with the skills, resources, and capacity to transition places into equitable, healthy, and desirable communities?
PCRG is excited to announce that our Sixth Annual Community Development Summit will be seeking answers to these questions about “The POWER of Place”. On May 17-18th, community development professionals will meet to learn with each other about the role of place in peoples’ lives. We invite you to join us as we explore this topic together.
For the last six years, the Community Development Summit hosted by PCRG has been the premier regional forum for discussion in the field. Each year over 500 individuals from all areas of community development come to learn from presenters, keynote speakers, and each other. During the conference, attendees can participate in activities for further reflection including mobile workshops that take the discussion into the city and artistic performances.
Each year, our theme has been developed based on feedback from attendees as well as a steering committee of community development professionals. To learn more about previous Summits, see this section (hyperlink to http://www.pcrg.org/programs/cdsummit/) of our website.
For more information, watch our newsletter for information on how to register. You can also visit our conference website and connect with us on Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter. In addition, we are currently seeking proposals for sessions that address issues of power, people, and place. Visit our website or contact Majestic Lane by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (412.391.6732) for more information on how to submit a session proposal.
The community of Hazelwood is celebrating the unanimous decision of the Pittsburgh Public Schools board of directors to approve the sale of the Gladstone Middle School building for redevelopment. Sitting on six acres of land in the middle of the neighborhood, the historic building was vacant for over fourteen years as the school board struggled to find responsible developers willing to rehabilitate the site. However, during recent months, Hazelwood residents and stakeholder organizations rallied to submit a proposal to purchase the school as the community prepares for upcoming development and planning.
Through its Reimagining Communities Initiative, PCRG facilitated the formation of a partnership between those interested in the site, which included residents and local organizations such as the Hazelwood Initiative and the Center of Life, and Make It Right, a non-profit organization based out of New Orleans experienced in large community-driven revitalization projects. This collaboration emerged as a result of voiced community concerns that residents might face displacement and gentrification as a result of new development.
Based on these concerns, the team designed an acquisition and rehabilitation proposal based on community inclusivity and transparency. Over the last six months, four charrette-style* public meetings were held where more than one hundred residents gathered to exchange opinions, ideas and concerns about the reuse of the site. Ultimately, residents decided to endorse a proposal that transforms the school into a community incubator that provides resources currently unavailable to the area, such as a recreation center, medical assistance, workforce development, affordable housing, and more. While this community input process was taking place, residents attended school board meetings to speak out against other proposed uses that wouldn’t benefit the neighborhood or might compromise the community’s identity.
Now that the community-led partnership has taken the first step to acquire the school building, the hard work begins. The team will continue to secure the financial and organizational partners needed to ensure the project is successful in fulfilling the community’s vision. The team also hopes to maintain and build on the momentum that has been built as they tackle the more difficult aspects of this rehab development. In the meantime, Hazelwood is celebrating the gains they made by simply standing up for the best interests of their community.
*Charrette: An intensive planning session where citizens, planners, and others collaborate on a vision for development. It provides a forum for ideas and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to the project team. More importantly, it allows everyone who participates to be a mutual author of the plan.
PCRG recently welcomed two new AmeriCorps VISTAs to the team: Megan Arnold and Lea Brown.
Over their year of service, the VISTAs will work closely with staff and community-based organizations under PCRG’s Reimagining Communities Initiative (RCI). RCI was created to leverage PCRG’s longstanding leadership role in advocating for equitable public policy, community access to resources, and strategic organizational partnerships for the purpose of building community development capacity, both locally and system-wide, that is driven by meaningful community inclusion. Work performed by the VISTAs will positively impact communities and create standards of practice to be used in RCI programming.
Megan will serve as the RCI Capacity VISTA.
What excites you the most about working at PCRG?
“Learning about all of the work and programs PCRG provides to its members, gaining knowledge and experience in the community development field, and helping PCRG fulfill its mission.”
What is something you love about Pittsburgh?
“The small town, community feel even while in a city, the seasons, and the landscape.”
Lea will serve as the RCI Program VISTA.
What excites you the most about working at PCRG?
“I’m excited to learn more about the work that PCRG does in the Pittsburgh area, and I hope to gain skills and experience that I can take with me in the future.”
What is something you love about Pittsburgh?
“I love the diversity of the neighborhoods, and the fact that Pittsburgh is a city with a small town feel.”
We’ve had a lot of questions about the Community Acquisition and Rehabilitation Loan (CARL) since we began the pilot program, and we’ve had even more since our first CARL closings took place. Here’s a look the top five most frequently asked questions about CARL:
1) Who’s CARL?
CARL is the guy in the yellow hard hat, and he is here to help you buy and rehab the home of your dreams.
The Community Acquisition and Rehabilitation Loan (CARL) combines a mortgage loan and a rehabilitation loan to allow you to purchase a home and make the renovations that suit your lifestyle. As a single loan product, CARL simplifies the financing process for the purchase and rehabilitation of a property by reducing the cost, time, and complexity of obtaining multiple loans.
2) How much do I need for a down payment?
The borrower will have at least 5% plus closing costs in a down payment (and there’s no mortgage insurance!). The borrower can have up to 6% of seller’s assist toward the purchase price of the home, but the borrower must have at least 1.5% invested in the project.
The maximum loan amount is $300,000; but if the loan amount is greater than $233,000, the borrower will be required to provide equity greater than 5%.
3) Where is the CARL program available?
To find out the census tract for a property you have identified, you can go to: bit.ly/CensusTracts > select “2014″ in the drop down menu > enter the address of the property and click “search” > and then click “Census Demographic Data” on the left. The Census Tract will be shown on the left next to “Tract Code” and on the map within the Census Tract boundaries (the red dot indicates your property location, and the blue lines immediately surrounding the red dot indicates the Census Tract boundaries).
4) Can I use CARL for investment properties?
Yes and no.
You cannot buy a home using CARL and live in another home while you rent out the CARL property. The CARL program has a five-year owner-occupancy requirement (i.e. the CARL borrower must live in the property for five years as his/her principal residence). The CARL program is not available for commercial or mixed-use buildings.
However, the CARL program is available for 1-4 family contiguous unit, with one unit being the principal residence of the borrower. For example, if a CARL borrower purchases a 4-unit home, the borrower can live in one unit and rent out the other three units.
5) Where do I start?
You can go through all the questions on the FAQ page and review the online CARL documents to see if this is the right program for you. It is highly recommended that you set up a time with us to review the step-by-step timeline for CARL borrowers to gain a better understanding of the program and what to expect along the way. There are several things you can do ahead of time to be proactive during the CARL process, and we want to make sure you get through the program smoothly.
You can contact Samuel Su at PCRG (email@example.com or 412-391-6732 ext. 210) to review the CARL timeline or if you have any questions. Once you are comfortable with moving forward with the CARL program, you can reach out to the participating CARL lenders to get pre-qualified. For a list of participating CARL lenders, please visit our CARL documents page.
We host a CARL Info Session during the last week of each month. Our next info session is Monday, November 30 from 6-7PM at PCRG’s Office (1901 Centre Ave., Suite 200, Pittsburgh, PA 15219). RSVP with Samuel Su at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-391-6732 ext. 210.
The Blight Bootcamp Website is now live!
In early November, over 150 individuals came together for a full day of learning and networking on ideas, challenges, and resources that exist in the space in the fight against blight – for Pittsburgh’s first Blight Bootcamp.
While blight is a common obstacle in the path to revitalizing all of our many communities across Allegheny County and beyond, there are many individuals, organizations, and institutions working on cleaning up our region’s derelict properties. The reasons blight exist are many and are nothing new to the region. We are all collectively working to overcome the root causes and impacts that it has in our neighborhoods and on our daily lives.
The day featured a lunchtime keynote by Ian Beniston of Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation as well as a series of 9 panels and workshops including topics like ‘Using Community Arts to Fight Blight’, ‘Data Driven Decision Making’, ‘Planning Your Vacant Lot Project’, and more. There was something for all attendees, from community development workers to community members. PCRG’s LaShawna Russ presented in the session ‘Data Driven Decision Making’ on her work in the field as part of the Reimagining Communities Initiative’s property condition surveying in the neighborhood of Beltzhoover.
This truly successful first workshop was put together by a group of organizations, including the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections of the City of Pittsburgh, GTECH Strategies, Neighborhood Allies, Design Center of Pittsburgh, and PCRG.
For more background on the history of blight and vacancy in the region and the tools, resources and partners working at different levels to eradicate it, check out this companion news piece that aired a few days after Blight Bootcamp, featuring PCRG members the Housing Alliance, GTECH Strategies, and Operation Better Block!
A quick snapshot of the feedback from the day’s participants points towards another bootcamp in 2016. Stay tuned!
Josh Silver, Senior Advisor at National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), recently wrote about “Public Benefits and Bank Mergers” in a Shelterforce blog post. Silver writes, “…a merger represents an important opportunity for community groups to weigh in regarding credit needs in communities and whether banks are meeting these needs.”
PCRG writes comment letters on all bank mergers and acquisitions in our region. Our comments are informed by our annual mortgage lending study and input from PCRG members and stakeholders. Our lending study compiles publicly available data to keep the community informed on trends in local and national lending and financial regulations, as well as the record of individual banks. The study is a tool for PCRG members and partners to identify gaps in services, to work collaboratively with local financial institutions, and create opportunities for new financial products and more equitable lending.
The public has 30 days after the submission of a merger application to comment. Regulators have the ability to deny mergers or approve them with conditions. Public comments feed into the regulators decision-making on these conditions. Silver reminds us, “After all, the banks are required to provide a public benefit arising from their merger.”
So, we encourage you to provide your own comment letter and/or sign onto our letters.
The current mergers and acquisitions that will affect our region are:
PCRG signed the National Community Reinvestment Coalition’s comment letters about the Goldman Sachs acquisition of GE Capital and has submitted comments and met with bank leadership concerning the Key Bank/First Niagara, NexTier/Eureka, and First National Bank/Fifth Third applications.
For more information on bank mergers and acquisitions in our region, contact Ernie Hogan, PCRG’s Executive Director, at email@example.com or (412) 391-6732 ext. 204.
Thursday, January 14th
Wednesday, January 27th
6 – 7 PM
PCRG Member Meeting
Thursday, January 28th
6 – 8 PM
Thursday, February 4th
12 – 2 PM
Vacant Property Working Group
Friday, February 5th
9 – 11 AM
For more information on this newsletter, please contact Sarah Slater, PCRG’s Communications Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (412) 391-6732 ext. 211.