The Mayor has asked for permission to create a 25 member task force that will deal with the City’s vacant properties. The panel, if created, will have two years to write a plan.
How extensive is the problem? The Act 47 plan contains data on vacant housing units as a percentage of total housing units. Pittsburgh has some 29k housing units that are vacant: with 160k total housing units, that works out to 18%.
That percentage is higher than other PA cities looked at by the recovery team-Philadelphia (14.9%), Allentown (9.5%), and Erie (14.7%)-but not as high as Buffalo (21.2%), Cleveland (23.3%), or St. Louis (21.3%). Pittsburgh exceeded the overall U.S. average of 11.6%.
To be sure, data shows that the rate of condemnations far outpaces the rates of demolitions, thus making the backlog grow annually. And though we have been told that the Pittsburgh region by and large did not partake in the housing boom (thus implying there has been no housing bust here) there has to be a good portion of stock that fell into foreclosure. To be sure, there are examples out there of what other cities have done to combat vacant housing and most certainly the task force will have to address the operations of the Bureau of Building Inspection, which was examined by both the Act 47 team (in the amended report) and a separate oversight board study.