South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Home ownership promoted at Mt. Washington CDC April forum


Last updated 4/24/2019 at 9:02pm

A housing-themed community forum hosted by the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) last Thursday provided residents with information about the availability of homeowner resources in the community.

Financing, homeowner education, home construction, and facade restoration were just some of the topics covered by presenters from local organizations as a way to promote homeownership in Mount Washington.

The first speaker was Julie Pichora, a mortgage loan officer at the Key Bank branch on Shiloh Street, who presented two mortgage options available to residents looking to purchase a home.

The first option is Key Bank's "Community Mortgage", which offers a down payment as low as zero percent, a fixed interest rate, and does not require Private Mortgage Insurance. The second option is a "Home Ready Mortgage," which offers down payments as low as three percent, fixed interest rates and permits gifts to be used a funding source for a down payment.

Income eligibility for both options is determined by property location and can change from street to street. Ms. Pichora encouraged residents to reach out to the bank in order to determine the mortgage income qualifications for a specific property.

Both options require the buyer complete a homeowner education course, which can be done through NeighborWorks, a local nonprofit that provides financial wellness courses and one-on-on financial counseling.

Haleigh Schmidhamer, outreach associate at NeighborWorks, distributed brochures for upcoming homeownership courses, which are held on two Saturdays each month from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at 710 Fifth Avenue downtown. The next dates are May 4, May 18 and June 1.

The course is free and covers various homeowner topics such as buyer preparedness, understanding credit, obtaining a mortgage, home shopping, and fair lending. Participants receive a certificate upon completion that can be provided to financial institution when applying for a mortgage.

The organization has served more than 1,000 people over the past three years and 264 have went on to purchase a house.

"We serve a lot of people," Ms. Schmidhamer said. "Older people who have maybe not understood credit and made some mistakes. We also serve a lot of young people who just graduated and want to buy a car and don't know what means to have good credit or bad credit."

Ms. Schmidhamer said NeighborWorks also provides a financial wellness course that covers budgeting, goal setting, navigating financial institutions, and predatory lending. The financial wellness courses are held on one Wednesday evening each month.

"We really want to help people take control of their finances," Ms. Schmidhamer said. "We love to see people buy homes. It's one of the things that brings us the most joy, and one of the most rewarding parts of what we do."

Residents can enroll in courses online by visiting

The next speakers were Lu Zhu and Drew Brisley from Module Housing, a local Pittsburgh design company that is focused on building energy efficient, expandable homes on urban lots.

Module Housing's vision is to bring good design to the everyday home buyer with an "incremental house build" that allows customers to start with a small home that has removable walls and roof systems, so it can be easily expanded when needed.

A Module Home can range from 640 to 1,600 square feet and are focused on energy efficiency. Walls are built in a climate controlled environment offsite, and homes are constructed in about two days. Each home has WaterSense appliances and LED lighting to reduce utility bills.

In order to reach more customers who do not own land, the company is looking to acquire vacant lots and offer them as a packaged deal bundled with a home build. They're also planning to launch an online database of available land throughout the city.

Examples of Module Housing designs can be found on

The last speaker was board member Greg Panza who announced the Curb Appeal Program is returning for another year.

The MWCDC sponsored initiative provides front door painting as well as mailbox and lighting installation services to low income residents in Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights.

Ten residents received services last year, and the goal is to expand to 30 homes in 2019. Applications are available at the Mount Washington Carnegie Library. There is a $30 application fee to help offset costs, but almost all applications have been approved.

Executive Director Gordon Davidson said last year's program was a successful proof of concept. The MWCDC is considering ways to expand the services to possibly include siding and porch repair or home security upgrades.

"We can look into anything up to a roof replacement if we can get the support from enough people to make it manageable." Mr. Davidson said. "Our clients would have to contribute more for such a major project."

The next MWCDC community forum is May 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Mount Washington Healthy Living Center on Virginia Avenue.


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