On September 12th PCRG convened the third MBCC forum of 2017, generously hosted by Citizens Bank at their downtown office. The MBCC, which included over 40 participants from Pittsburgh’s banking and community development communities, covered a wide range of topics, including bank insights on pre-development and gap financing, LERTA renewal, and the proposed federal Neighborhood Housing Tax Credit.
Alyssa Lyon, our community outreach manager, kicked off the event with some news about CARL, PCRG’s mortgage and rehabilitation loan product. In 2017 CARL applicants have closed on homes in Homewood, Garfield, and Manchester, and over 100 inquiries have been made about participating in the program. Sarah Slater, PCRG’s program coordinator, briefed the group on the city’s land bank, followed by an update from Ernie Hogan on PCRG’s 2018 Community Development Summit.
The bulk of the meeting focused on introducing our community members and bank partners to the Neighborhood Housing Tax Credit (NHTC). The bill, which was originally introduced during the Bush Administration, is slated to be reintroduced sometime over the next year. The NHTC, if passed, will function similarly to Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, but for 1-4 family homes. We will continue to monitor the progress of the bill through Congress and advocate for its passage.
The final portion of the meeting was dedicated to development updates from our community members, and we heard from a wide range of groups, including the Wilkinsburg Community Development, Oakland Planning and Development Corporation, and Neighborworks, among others. We encourage all our city and county members to participate in this forum, and we hope to see you at the final MBCC of the year on December 5th.
In 2009, President Barack Obama and Congress joined together to pass bi-partisan national service legislation which transformed September 11th into a day of service. From this legislation came September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance, a recognized day of service for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). CNCS is the federal agency that improves communities through the use of AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps programs. This year, our AmeriCorps VISTA members volunteered at the Community Human Services Food Pantry in Oakland in honor of September 11th.
The Oakland Food Pantry was founded in 2009 in response to an increase in food insecurity amongst Community Human Service? (CHS) clients and neighbors. The pantry’s mission is to provide each client the choice in determining what they feel meets their needs best. Due to the large quantities of fresh local produce, the pantry is able to provide clients with healthy food choices. On average, the pantry serves 650 families per month which equates to around 2,500 individuals. A family of three receives approximately $92 worth of groceries from the pantry each month, easing financial stress significantly.
Volunteers are critical to the functioning of the Oakland Food Pantry and providing excellent client experiences. Shifts at the pantry range from sorting and distributing food items, assisting clients with paperwork and teaching and educating client’s on healthy ways to prepare the foods they are receiving.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Oakland Food Pantry visit http://www.chscorp.org/service-area/food-pantry or contact Annie Fiffick, Food Pantry Coordinator, at email@example.com
In August, PCRG welcomed two new VISTA members to the PCRG team. Both Sabreena and Adrie will be working on projects readers will learn more about over the next year. We asked the two of them some questions to introduce them to our members, partners, and friends.
Adrie, where are you from? I’m from Harrisburg, PA, and I’ve lived in Miami.
Tell us a little about your background: Before coming to PCRG, I attended Harrisburg Area Community College, and I worked at City Year Miami.
What are some of your hobbies? Music, reading, theatre, and volunteering with the animal shelter.
Tell us a fun fact about you: Alan Rickman & Jackson Galaxy told me my cats are cute.
What is something you love about Pittsburgh? I love that Pittsburgh is constantly changing & there’s always something new to capture your interest.
Sabreena, where are you from? Tell us a little about your background: I am originally from Detroit and went to Bowling Green State University where I studied Sociology and Global Business Development.
What are you most excited to work on at PCRG? I am most excited to work on the Conservatorship Guide and member engagement for Bellevue Initiative for Growth and Revitalization.
What are some of your hobbies? I enjoy exploring Pittsburgh and getting to know the city as a new resident of Pennsylvania. Working in the city and also for PCRG has afforded me the opportunity to really familiarize myself with people, places, and organizations here.
Tell us a fun fact about you: I am interested in getting involved in politics!
What is something you love about Pittsburgh? Pittsburgh, I’ve noticed, is a little, big city. The atmosphere here is so welcoming, to me, and although there’s so much here, the sense of community and the ability to connect and stay connected gives it a small town vibe.
Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG) recently received a contribution of $25,000 from Citizens Bank as part of the banks Citizens Helping Citizens program. Citizens Helping Citizens is focused on supporting and strengthening communities in the hopes of driving economic vitality in the region. PCRG will use the contribution for Moving Residents through Financial Education, an effort to provide residents with financial literacy education and financial tools. The overall goal of the program is to stabilize and revitalize distressed and transitional neighborhoods of low-to-moderate income (LMI) residents by making them homeowners. Building capacity within the community through training is integral to the long-term viability of neighborhood stabilization efforts.
1. Organizations Partnering: Fineview Citizens Council and Perry Hilltop Citizens Council
2. Founding Date: FCC – 1983, PHCC – 1968
3. Current Staff Size: 2 full-time staff members
4. Geographic Area Served: Fineview and Perry Hilltop (Perry South)
5. Mission Statement:
FCC: To develop affordable and desirable housing through public and private funds, to foster a strong sense of pride and ownership in the community and to generally improve the quality of life for each citizen in Fineview.
PHCC: To stimulate civic and social action on a non-sectarian, non-partisan and interracial basis to benefit all residents and to improve the quality of life for all residents and business enterprises within the Perry Hilltop neighborhood.
Talking with Joanna Deming, Program Manager
6. What is one project or program that you are really excited about?
We have a couple really cool projects that we are doing right now, thanks in part to strong volunteer leadership from our board and community partners. One that stands out is Corner of Hope where students from The Pittsburgh Project, along with artist and teacher Sandy Kessler Kaminski, recreated 9 Negro League Murals that were installed on a newly improved parklet. The lot was neglected after an initial investment 20 years ago. The project was supported by local developer Oakglade Realty. The ribbon cutting celebration drew 75-100 people and was featured in multiple news outlets. The project was also highlighted at the Pittsburgh Pirates African American Heritage Night game in June.
7. What are some of the corporation’s recent accomplishments?
We are partnering to promote development in our communities, while making sure long-term and vulnerable residents have a place in its future. We are working to build an inclusive community. In order to bring our community together around a common vision and create a path forward, we are undergoing a board and staff led comprehensive planning process that has engaged over 225 of our neighbors and brought local service providers to the table. Learn more at www.ourfuturehilltop.org!
9. Tell us what you love about your neighborhood. What is your neighborhood’s best kept secret?
Fineview has one of the best views in the city, with Fineview Park just a block away. It is home to historic Heathside Cottage, which is owned by Greg Manley, who opens his home to friends and neighbors for local theater, musical, and dining experiences.
Perry Hilltop is home to Ballfield Farm, The Pittsburgh Project, Charles Street Cafe (summer only), Fowler Park and Pool, Allegheny Goatscape, and a brand new co-working space at Oakglade Realty.
10. What is an interesting fact about your corporation or its history?
Fineview had the first curved incline in Pittsburgh. It ran from Federal St at Henderson St. to Catoma St. near Meadville St.
Perry Hilltop was the original home for the University of Pittsburgh, known then as Western University of Pennsylvania.
11. What are some of your upcoming events?
Sunday, August 27th, 11-1pm – Ribbon Cutting at Unity Corner, 1-4pm – Community Picnic at Fineview Park.
12. Contact Information
In recent months, affordable housing policy has been in both the national and local news. PCRG members and partners advocate for legislation and programs to support affordable housing, but they are also actively involved in affordable housing production. PCRG supports our members’ involvement both through research and advocacy, as well as through programs. These programs include the Vacant Property Working Group, the CARL program, and our Real Estate-Owned (REO) Purchase and Resale program.
For the REO Purchase and Resale program, PCRG staff monitor REO properties available in Pittsburgh through a variety of methods, and facilitate the sale of those properties to members and partners. Two of our partners recently closed on properties, acquired from Wells Fargo and the the National Community Stabilization Trust (NCST). Since properties are available at a significant discount in both of these programs, it helps organizations afford to sell or rent them as affordable housing.
PCRG monitors the Wells Fargo Discount and Donation Program, a way for Wells Fargo to connect community groups with REO properties in their geographic area. PCRG was notified about a property available in the Perry Hilltop neighborhood of Pittsburgh. PCRG contacted Perry Hilltop Citizens Council, who determined that it would fit with their strategy to have the house sold to a local affordable housing renovation and rental company, Oakglade Realty. When purchasing the house, Oakglade Realty signed a Memorandum of Understanding with PHCC to ensure long-term affordability.
After completing interior and exterior renovations, the home is now renovated and available to rent to tenants with Section 8 vouchers or another similar voucher program. Located on a street close to the Pittsburgh Project, an Oakglade Realty office building, and several houses occupied by PULSE Fellows, the formerly vacant house will now contribute further to the stability of the neighborhood.
PCRG has been an approved Community Buyer through NCST since May 2016. As a Community Buyer, PCRG is notified of REO properties before they are put for sale on the open market. PCRG’s goal for participating in the program is to make discounted properties available to community groups, by facilitating the transaction, providing training, and providing reporting support. Other regional groups, including the Pittsburgh Housing Development Corporation and the NCRC Growth Initiative, also participate in the NCST Program.
Earlier this year, a property in Hazelwood became available through the NCST Property Acquisition Program. Hazelwood Initiative is a community development corporation, currently pursuing a strategy of purchasing, rehabbing, and selling houses to provide housing for low to moderate income households. A number of properties have already been renovated and sold through this program. PCRG worked with the financial institution and Hazelwood Initiative to facilitate closing. The house is currently being renovated, and will be sold to a qualifying homeowner.
In addition to our policy and advocacy, PCRG programs and trainings are crucial ways we support member goals and member capacity. Are you a PCRG member or an affordable housing developer who works closely with a PCRG member? Contact Sarah Slater at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or call 412-391-6732.
For more information on this newsletter, please contact Adrie Fells, AmeriCorps Outreach VISTA, at email@example.com or (412) 391-6732 ext. 211.