Pittsburgh is finally growing again after many decades of population loss. My Council district grew by 10% between 2000 and 2010 – the only Council district to increase its population in the last 40 years. As we welcome these new residents to the city and encourage more to follow, we must provide resources to help them and current residents become responsible property owners and contribute to safe, clean, and attractive neighborhoods.
1. Educating Property Owners
One dilapidated house on a block can quickly lead to an entire neighborhood’s decline if nothing is done. Our property management code has many rules and regulations for upkeep of houses and businesses in the city but too often property owners don’t know the rules. Our understaffed and overworked building inspectors aren’t able to issue the citations that could help clean up problem properties before they bring an entire block down.
Instead of just ignoring the problems until they become a crisis, we need to help property owners learn the rules and give them the resources to follow them. Every person who purchases a property in the City of Pittsburgh should receive a New Property Owner’s Handbook that includes a simple outline of the roles and responsibilities of a good neighborhood. For example, the responsibility for clearing sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall or the limit of three unrelated tenants in a single-family home.
2. Connecting Owners With the Resources They Need
In addition to outlining the roles and responsibilities of a property owner, the New Property Owner’s Handbook will include information about resources such as low-interest home renovation loans, programs to assist with facade restoration, contact information for neighborhood groups/organizations, detailed information about how to apply for a building permit or residential parking permit, and other important resources.
If property owners are made aware of their roles and responsibilities as soon as they purchase a property, they can no longer argue that they didn’t know what the rules are so they didn’t know not to break them. Educating property owners about their responsibilities will free up our building inspectors to focus on the most serious problems in the city and will help to build safe, clean, and attractive neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh.