Grace Hospital: the side entrance, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from windsordi’s photostream

Pittsburgh has, on average, some of the oldest housing stock in the nation. We have grand old homes that have fallen into disrepair because their owners don’t have the resources to maintain them or because they have been abandoned and the city doesn’t have the resources to restore them or tear them down. Yet we have hundreds of unemployed residents who would relish a chance to learn new skills and get back to work – many who live in the very same neighborhoods that these forgotten homes stand in. We need to create a program to connect unemployed or underemployed residents with job and skill-training opportunities that would come from helping to restore these old homes. Imagine if we could create good paying jobs and rebuild our neighborhoods at the same time. This is exactly what I want to do. I will create the ReBuild Pittsburgh program to put people in our neighborhoods to work restoring these old homes and learning new skills at the same time.

1. ReBuild Pittsburgh

Groups like Homewood Renaissance and Rebuilding Together are already doing some of this great work in our neighborhoods to restore our housing stock and improve the lives of the people. We need to recognize their achievements and take their work citywide through a formal partnership with the City of Pittsburgh. Take a walk through Homewood, Manchester, or Beltzhoover and you will be amazed at the architectural history and beauty of many of the homes. If these homes were in other neighborhoods, they would fly off the market to be restored and sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Instead of letting these beautiful landmarks fall to pieces or be demolished to leave empty lots, we need to get people in them and start using them as training grounds to teach unemployed residents how to install windows, how to repair a roof, how to patch masonry, and how to install wiring. We have hundreds of real-life training opportunities just sitting, neglected, in our neighborhoods. It’s time to do something about it.

We will build partnerships to put unemployed residents in these homes with experts mentors to create apprenticeship training programs to rebuild our neighborhoods block by block. Coupled with the plan for creating the Pittsburgh Community Land Bank, we could create a mechanism by which the Land Bank buys up vacant and abandoned properties, Rebuild Pittsburgh puts people to work to restore them, then the Land Bank sells them to qualified community organizations or private buyers at a profit to create a sustainable funding stream. If we can make this happen, we will be creating jobs, providing training in the skilled trades, fighting blight in our neighborhoods, and bringing new properties onto the city’s tax rolls.