East Liberty Public Housing, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Matt Niemi’s photostream

The Housing Authority of Pittsburgh controls nearly 6,000 public housing units and administers more than 6,000 Section 8 vouchers throughout the City of Pittsburgh. Our Housing Authority was the first created in Pennsylvania and one of the first in the nation. Many of the units and communities were constructed many years ago and are badly in need of modernization and better service provision. A recent independent audit revealed some serious concerns about how contracts are awarded by the authority and how services are provided. Public housing residents should not have to live in substandard conditions. They should not have to wait for an audit to see improvement in their communities.

As mayor, I will take several steps to improve the Housing Authority of Pittsburgh. First, I will make it a priority to ensure that all newly constructed units are built to the highest environmental standards to reduce energy use, improve their design, eliminate the use of toxic chemicals, and increase the use of green spaces. I will also work with the board to reevaluate facilities maintenance plans to ensure that repairs and retrofits are made to those units most in need. Finally, I will meet with residents to find out what changes are most important to them and how we can work to make these communities cleaner, greener, and safer.

1. Greening Our Public Housing

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has begun pushing housing authorities around the country to prioritize more sustainable construction when new units or built or older units are renovated. I want Pittsburgh to become a model city for sustainable design and construction of public housing. Our Housing Authority properties should meet the highest standards of energy efficiency, storm water control, and indoor air quality. I will work with HUD, the Housing Authority board, and developers to begin to develop a strategy for greening our existing properties and ensuring that new ones meet at least LEED Silver standards. Not only will this provide a better quality of life for residents but it will help us with our larger challenges like reducing combined sewer overflows and flooding problems and improving our air quality.

2. Clean and Safe Communities

As I visit public housing communities across our city, from Northview Heights to Glen Hazel to Bedford Dwellings, I frequently hear from residents who feel that they aren’t provided the same level of services as people who live in other neighborhoods. I plan to meet with residents of all of these communities to find out how we can do a better job of meeting their needs and reducing crime and violence in their communities. We also need to reexamine our facilities maintenance plans to ensure that repairs and renovations are taking place on the units that need them and that community spaces like parks and playgrounds are well maintained. Residents of Housing Authority units and communities deserve clean, green, and safe neighborhoods and I am looking forward to working to improve conditions and make our public housing a model for the country.