South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Housing Opportunity Fund helping residents stay in their homes

 


The Hilltop Alliance (HA) is hosting a series of on-line presentations highlighting programs of the city's Housing Opportunity Fund (HOF) in cooperation with the Urban Redevelopment Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (URA) and to request area residents to respond to a survey on the fund and programs.

Presenting for the URA at the first meeting were: Jeremy Carter, manager of the HOF Consumer Program; Vethina Hage, housing strategy manager for the Residential and Consumer lending Unit; and, Evan Miller, housing project manager for the Residential and Consumer Lending Unit. Representing the Hilltop Alliance were: Jeph Martin, Julia McMahon and Roy Blankenship.

Another meeting will be on Monday, July 26 at 6 p.m. The link to join the meeting is https://meet.google.com/pmm-uqgd-gok?authuser=0

The Housing Opportunity Fund administers $10 million per year to support affordable housing in Pittsburgh. Each year, the URA is required to survey residents to gain input on how the fund will be allocated the following year. This year's survey is available at https://bit.ly/2T7Rjcy and will be open through July 30.

Results of the survey and the allocation plan will be published on the HOF website, http://www.ura.org/pages/HOF, in August.

The HOF uses a 17-member advisory board of Pittsburgh residents of various occupations and socioeconomic backgrounds to review applications and guide program development. The URA Board votes on projects and to advance the Annual Allocation Plan to Pittsburgh City Council which then votes on the allocation plan.

HOF funds are used to create and preserve affordable for rent and for sale housing in the City of Pittsburgh with a focus on deed restricted and/or permanently affordable housing. They may used to expand access to affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities and increase the number of affordable homes with supportive services to prevent homelessness; stabilize neighborhoods.

The staff also work to identify and secure additional funding opportunities for the HOF.

The HOF funding allocation for 2021 and income qualifications for the programs are based on the Area Median Income AMI for the region. This year the allocation was distributed: 50 percent to residents in the 30 percent or below AMI ($26,500 for a family of four); 25 percent to residents in the 50 percent or below AMI ($42,400 for a family of four); and, 25 percent to residents in the 80 percent or below AMI ($67,500 for a family of four).

The URA administrates six programs for the HOF: the Rental Gap Program; the For Sale Development Program; the Homebuyer Assistance Program; the Down Payment and Closing Cost Program; the Housing Stabilization Program; and, the Legal Assistance Program.

The Rental Gap Program (RGP) provides financing to developers and non-profit applicants for the creation of or preservation of affordable housing units. The units financed must be for residents at 40 percent AMI or below. There is a term of 40 years for the financing.

Mr. Miller said in the three years the program has been operating it has benefited large projects and some as small are eight to 10 units.

The For Sale Development Program (FSDP) provides low interest rate construction financing and/or grants to increase the supply of affordable homeownership housing. A program goal is to eliminate substandard housing by ensuring compliance with codes and standards.

The FSDP is keyed toward non-profits, and developers with non-profit partners, working to create or preserve affordable for sale housing in 80 percent AMI households. The grant program is often used as a bridge between the actual cost of a project and what the affordable for sale cost would be for the home.

To qualify for the grant under the program, the home must remain affordable for 99 years. In those 99 years, if the homeowner was to sell, it would have to be to someone in the 80 percent AMI and at an affordable price.

The Down Payment and Closing Cost Program (DPCP) can provide assistance to first-time homebuyers in the city who are interested in purchasing an existing or newly constructed residential unit.

The home purchased must be an owner-occupied unit in the city and the applicant must complete a homebuyer education course. The grant may be used toward a down payment or toward closing costs.

At 80 percent AMI or below the loan is $7500 at 0 percent interest and deferred for five years. From 80-115 percent AMI, the loan amount is $5000 at 0 percent interest and deferred for 10 years. At the end of the term, if the buyer is still in the home the loan is forgiven.

The DPCP has helped more than 120 homebuyers, so far.

The Homeowner Assistance Program (HAP) and the Homeowner Assistance Program Plus Program (HAPP) provide financial assistance for homeowners at or below 80 percent AMI to rehabilitate and improve their owner-occupied homes in the city. The programs provide of up to $30,000 in the form of a 0 percent deferred interest loan that is forgiven after 30 years as long as the home remains affordable. The money may be used to bring the home up to code; install energy efficient improvements; or, undertake eligible general property improvements.

If the home is sold within the 30 years to someone above the AMI limit the loan would come due.

The program has completed 125 total homes and has another 50 in process.

Mr. Martin explained the Alliance works with the URA on the Homeowner Assistance Program (HAP) in the Hilltop.

"It's one of our most impactful programs," he said. The program provides up to $8,000 for low and moderate income homeowners to get critical repairs made on their homes.

The Alliance has completed more than 20 HAP projects so far in 2021 with the majority in Carrick and Beltzhoover. Additional projects have taken place in Allentown, Arlington, Mt. Oliver City and Mt. Washington.

Another program is the Housing Stabilization Program (HSP). The HSP is a housing crisis prevention program that promotes economic independence for renters and homeowners who are experiencing a temporary, non-reoccurring crisis by providing short-term financial assistance to help them with access or maintain safe, stable and affordable permanent housing.

To be eligible, city renters at or below 50 percent AMI and city homeowners at or below 80 percent AMI have to demonstrate the are behind or will be behind in their rent or mortgage. Renters may qualify for up to $3,000 in assistance and homeowners, up to $6,000. Call 211 to ask for a referral to the Housing Stabilization Program.

The final program discussed was the Legal Assistance Program (LAP) which provides free housing legal services in the city.

Legal services for tenants include: Mediation (with landlords) with limited legal representation and consultation and full legal representation.

Legal services for homeowners include: Tangled title and foreclosure prevention for people living in a house without the title being in their name. For help, call 412-534-6600 or for Spanish, Portuguese or other languages, call 412-530-5244.

The next meeting where area residents can learn more and ask questions will be on Monday, July 26 at 6 p.m. The link to join the meeting is https://meet.google.com/pmm-uqgd-gok?authuser=0

To complete the Housing Opportunity Fund survey, go to: tinyurl.com/hof2022 or call 412-447-

7513, at Marketing Question #16 online, answer "Hilltop Alliance."

For assistance completing an application over the phone, call Roy Blankenship, Hilltop Alliance outreach manager at 412-586-5807 ext. 2.

 

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