Council to consider solutions to vacant properties and blight | Keeping Up With the Council

Council to consider solutions to vacant properties and blight

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At the June 24 Pittsburgh City Council meeting councilors discussed a resolution to launch a cost benefits analysis of creating an in-house demolition division. While council ultimately decided to hold the resolution for a public hearing, the discussion raised concerns about vacant properties and blight in city neighborhoods.

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"I truly have some safety hazards in the district," said District 1 Councilor Darlene Harris. "One of the houses looks like it's ready to fall. There's a lot of accidents waiting to happen."

At yesterday's meeting, several councilors talked about the balance between demolishing abandoned properties that have become safety hazards and preventing city streets from being filled with vacant lots.

"Not every neighborhood is in the same place in it's development," said District 7 Councilor Deb Gross. "There are some places in the city that feel like they've suffered too many demolitions."

They talked about promoting alternatives to blighted lots and property. District 4 Councilor Natalia Rudiak suggested planting a certain type of grass on vacant lots that would be easier to maintain to eliminate the weeds and tall grasses that fill up these lots in the summer. 

Others suggested increasing rehabilitation efforts to save more vacant properties. However, District 9 Councilor Ricky Burgess said sometimes rehabilitation takes too long.

"Since I have probably the most vacant houses, vacant and abandoned land in my district, I have some insight," said Burgess. "One of the things we have to do is teach the public about funding streams because often times they really want to rehabilitate the vacant housing but there's scarce public dollars to do that. You hear people say they want to see a halt to demolition but I don't think they see how difficult it is to rehab houses."

District 2 Councilor Theresa Kail-Smith who sponsored the resolution said she's received complaints from several constituents living next to vacant properties who want to see them torn down. 

"We're starting to hear that the cost of demolition is increasing," said Kail-Smith. "I think we should work with the community who live next to some of those properties."

Council also approved the expansion of permit parking in the South Side flats and $150,000 for the city's summer Learn and Earn youth employment program. Additionally, they increased funding for civil service test preparation at the Community College of Allegheny County by $4,000. Final votes on these measures will be held next week.

Earlier this week, city council held a public hearing on zoning to address the need for changes to the city code on urban agriculture

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