Changes From Pittsburgh Housing Authority Could Mean More Opportunity For Housing Voucher Recipients

Mar 12, 2018

Some tenants who receive housing assistance in Pittsburgh could be eligible to live in better neighborhoods because of a new system expected to be implemented April 1.

More than 5,200 households in Pittsburgh currently use housing vouchers, which subsidize rent for privately owned rental units. Another 2,500 households are on a waiting list for the program.

The authority is holding two public hearings on the changes at noon and 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at 200 Ross St. in Pittsburgh.

Currently, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh calculates the fair market rate for rentals based on a broad metropolitan region, lumping together low-income and high-income areas in Pittsburgh and surrounding rural counties. That’s lead to a concentration of voucher holders in certain neighborhoods.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Redevelopment has asked Pittsburgh and 23 other regions to use a smaller-scale calculation – zip codes.

“The goal is to increase opportunities for voucher holders to move into what [HUD] would call ‘neighborhoods of opportunity,’ so higher-cost neighborhoods with more amenities, better transportation, better access to jobs and services, better schools,” said David Weber, chief operations officer for Pittsburgh’s Housing Authority.

But Weber said it’s unclear if voucher holders would actually be able to access more expensive units in Pittsburgh, and if they could, how much more that would cost the authority.

“Our initial projection is that it will cost us more, but at this point we would not have to reduce the number of vouchers we issue,” said Weber.

He said he’s also heard concerns about less money going into lower-income neighborhoods that could use investment, if voucher holders are spread out geographically.

Under a provision proposed by the housing authority, current voucher holders who stay in their current rentals would not see a change in their assistance.