Housing: Advocates how worry how landlord foreclosures will hurt tenants | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Housing: Advocates how worry how landlord foreclosures will hurt tenants

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The American economy sucks, but there is good news: Business Week magazine recently ranked Pittsburgh as one of the "best cities for riding out a recession." That doesn't mean, however, that things locally are perfect -- especially for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Elaine Plunkett, a spokeswoman for the county's Department of Human Services, said in an e-mail that the department hadn't seen an increase in the number of people who are street homeless or entering shelters.

But one service provider -- the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh -- "is now seeing a new population of tenants who are being evicted due to 'landlord foreclosures,'" according to Plunkett, even though the demand for assistance overall has remained at normal levels. A housing representative with the Urban League could not be reached for comment.

The Pennsylvania statute governing tenants' rights during landlord foreclosure or a tax sale is a tricky little block of legalese.

Eileen Yacknin -- a staff attorney with Neighborhood Legal Services Association, which represents poor tenants and others who meet financial eligibility -- says that the group hasn't yet seen a landlord-foreclosure case. "There is nothing clear in Pennsylvania law" on whether a tenant can remain in the building, she adds, though Section 8 tenants "may have greater protection."

In some respects, Pittsburgh is dodging the national housing-bust bullet. The Pittsburgh Business Times reported on Oct. 1 that "the number of foreclosures in the Pittsburgh region slowed for the second straight month in August, with the possibility of fewer foreclosures this year than last." Additionally, Allegheny County is crafting a plan to protect homeowners who are undergoing foreclosure for up to 90 days.

Still, to those who provide services to Pittsburgh's homeless, a slumping economy can be as chilling as the autumnal drop in temperatures.

On Friday, Oct. 17, homeless-care workers held a "sleep-in" in front of the City-County Building to raise awareness and funds for Community Human Services -- which operates a number of local housing and outreach programs. Elected officials and concerned citizens camped out with social workers from 6:30 p.m. until the following morning.

With the economy like it is, says Mac McMahon, director of homeless assistance for CHS, "I think a lot of people have got to realize that some people are only an inch away from being homeless."

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