Would merging with the City lead to gentrification?
We recognize that many Wilkinsburg residents have concerns about displacement and gentrification. Wilkinsburg’s demographics are already changing—the Black population has declined by 19% in the past 10 years, while the white population increased by 28%. We understand the fear that a merger with the City of Pittsburgh may accelerate these changes, and that the shift will result in continued displacement of the black community. These fears and concerns are valid.
The volunteer residents who have been working together on the Merger Analysis Committee have prioritized a strong focus on how we can:
- Preserve access to housing for current residents
- Prevent displacement that can result from either the continued decline of our community or the forces of gentrification
- Promote diversity as a core value of our community
How Can We Preserve the Diversity of Our Community While Improving Quality of Life and Access to Services?
The City of Pittsburgh has many programs and protections in place to promote housing access and stability, while Wilkinsburg does not. However, in many cases the City has not done enough to protect vulnerable residents during times of change and new investment. Wilkinsburg residents may rightfully be skeptical of the City’s ability to do this well. We believe that more efforts and protections are necessary.
Because Wilkinsburg’s tax rates are nearly twice as high as the City’s, our residents also face the risk of displacement due to our deteriorating housing stock. Our high property taxes discourage improvements to existing properties, create barriers to homeownership, and make it more difficult to finance and complete new affordable housing projects.
In the event of a merger, we would have a unique opportunity during the transition to pursue funding from corporations and foundations to promote diversity and combat displacement. We would seek to establish a “Wilkinsburg Equitable Development Fund” to directly support Wilkinsburg’s African American and other minority residents and M/WBE small business owners, and to provide opportunities for renters to become homeowners in Wilkinsburg by creating new and preserving existing affordable housing.
No single group can control the housing market, and gentrification is a complex problem. Our residents are at risk of displacement from abandonment and from gentrification. Building strong, resilient neighborhoods requires bold new ideas, sustained commitment and effort—moving together with intentional plans and actions. Regardless of the outcome of the proposed merger, the members of our group will continue to work on the challenge of maintaining economic and racial diversity in our community.
About the Merger Analysis Committee’s Subcommittee on Diversity and Gentrification
The vision of the Diversity and Gentrification Subcommittee of the WCDC’s Merger Analysis Committee is that everyone should be able to thrive here. We should have good schools, business supports, intentional and mixed-affordability housing, public safety, greenery, parks, walkability, and more.
We believe that if we work together, we can build strong neighborhoods where everyone has the opportunity to live and thrive. Accomplishing this vision will require care, creativity, heart, and perseverance.
The people of Wilkinsburg will ultimately vote to decide whether we move forward with a merger. It’s up to us to choose what’s best for our community, and for our future. This document was prepared by resident volunteers on the Merger Analysis Committee’s Subcommittee on Diversity and Gentrification.