by Diana Nelson Jones/Jan 27
The denial of additional stimulus money for neighborhood stabilization is not quite the end of the world for Pittsburgh as we know it, but it's making a lot of people who have been working for years to help blighted neighborhoods pretty heartsick ... to think of all the good it might have done.
In yesterday's paper, we reported that the city was turned down in its application for $29 million of $2 billion in federal stimulus money that Congress earmarked to mitigate the effects of foreclosures. (We got $6 million last year.) To be fair, HUD was swamped with applications from cities asking for a total of $15 billion, and Pittsburgh's foreclosure rates are down. With this latest batch of dough, Congress is favoring recent foreclosures in sunshiney places like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Floor-EE-dah. This very special mountain of foreclosures, if you recall, was the drummajor in the Grand Parade of Disaster that pundits call "the recent economic downturn." It's only as old as a typical house sparrow lives and its blight hasn't had time to fester.
Whereas here, the beast that settled in in the early 1980s is by now incontinent, bleary-eyed, making strange, scary sounds and still munching away at our storied ‘hoods...
... and Congress is rescuing Las Vegas. [Insert Jon Stewart expression here.]
Who knows how far a bunch more millions (they could have at least given us a few) might have gone toward tipping some of our ‘hoods back to rights? Walkabout knows that oft times money is a poor substitute for everybody doing right by self and others, with joy in his heart and stuff like that, but it sure does pay some bills.
Anyway, here's what might have been:
* In the Hill District: funding for a housing project on DInwiddie Street;
* In Beechview and Mancheser: the rehabilitation and resale of several foreclosed properties.
* In Garfield: Of several dozen vacant houses, some would have been razed, others sold at very low rates to people who would put $50,000-$70,000 in them to live in. Stimulus money would have been the Urban Redevelopment Authority's grease to get banks to make loans to these potential home owners.
Rick Swartz, executive director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., said it would have been more creative if HUD had been directed to give banks federal tax credits
to donate properties to non-profits or redevelopment authorities,"
entities that could then prepare the homes for reuse.
He said Pittsburgh dared to propose in its application a foreclosure prevention component to help struggling home owners. One way might be to seal up their homes to lower their utility bills and give them some relief. But Congress doesn't see prevention as the best medicine, at least not this go-round.
Meantime, he said, "We are going to see more foreclosures in Garfield."
‘Course by then Congress might be into prevention... but nobody seems to be counting on miracles these says.