Diverse, equitably-priced housing is critically important to communities that aim to meet the needs of all residents. When housing needs are met, children do better in school and adults can be active and productive members of a community. Unfortunately, Wilkinsburg’s high property tax rate and declining population discourage investment in housing development and improvements. Wilkinsburg also has a higher poverty rate than the county-wide average, which means our high real estate taxes translate into higher housing costs for community residents who can least afford it.
Merging with the City would cut Wilkinsburg property taxes by 48% and dramatically expand the number of programs for renters, landlords, homeowners, and homebuyers. The City of Pittsburgh has a broader tax base, which helps distribute the cost of essential service and makes it possible to provide housing resources that a Borough the size of Wilkinsburg cannot offer.
If we don’t make a plan for housing, we risk losing our diverse community. While Wilkinsburg is a predominantly Black community, the Black population has declined by 21% in the past 10 years, while the white population has increased. We need a deliberate housing strategy that prioritizes investment in a range of housing options—safe, affordable living spaces that meet the needs of residents across income levels. Housing stability is critical to the well-being of our community. It won’t happen without a plan. We need to work together proactively to create a path to stabilizing our community and prioritizing the needs of our current residents.
What does the City have to offer that might change our housing situation?
The WCDC has compiled a page listing resources that are currently available to Wilkinsburg residents for housing, property acquisition and rehab, vacant land projects and more. Most of the resources available in Wilkinsburg come from state and county agencies or from private organizations, and many would remain available if we merge with the City.
The City of Pittsburgh has a 300-employee Housing Authority that services over 10,000 residents. Wilkinsburg relies only on county resources. The City has invested in a Housing Opportunity Fund (HOF) of $10 million per year that covers a variety of inclusive housing programs. The City of Pittsburgh and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) also recently announced the launch of OwnPGH, a $22 million bond-funded program that will lower barriers to homeownership and fund the purchase and rehabilitation of homes.
I have a family member who can’t easily climb stairs. Accessible housing in Wilkinsburg is difficult to find. Will this change if we merge with the City?
Most of our region’s physically accessible housing comes from new construction. If lower property taxes make new residential construction more feasible, this may lead to new housing that is designed to be accessible for people with disabilities. The City and County have programs to help homeowners make accessibility improvements. The City’s Housing Opportunity Fund also offers resources for landlords to make improvements.
I am concerned about maintaining diversity in Wilkinsburg. How would a merger help our community remain diverse?
Many housing and business development programs would be available to Wilkinsburg residents. The City has Minority and Women Owned Business (M/WBE) and Minority Workforce Inclusion (MWI) requirements for projects that utilize city financing or city-owned land. In addition, some City commissions are explicitly dedicated to diversity-related issues.
I own my home. Will my taxes go up?
The opposite! In Wilkinsburg, a property owner now pays a total property tax millage of 43.23 of assessed value compared to 23.49 in the City. With the merger, you would pay less in property taxes, based on City of Pittsburgh millage rates. Also, unless there is a county-wide reassessment, properties may only be reassessed when they are bought and sold; if there is an error/omission; if significant physical changes—such as demolitions, subdivisions, or new construction/additions are made to the property—or if the owner files an appeal.
If I have a Housing Choice Voucher or live in a building with a project-based rental subsidy, how will a merger affect my rent?
If you have a Housing Choice Voucher or live in a building with a rental subsidy, the value of your voucher or subsidy won’t change based on the merger. HUD sets maximum fair market rents for the Pittsburgh region. Maximum fair market rents vary within and around Pittsburgh, but are not determined by local government. Area Median Income (AMI) and income limits used by HUD are area wide. All of Allegheny County is a part of the Pittsburgh HUD Metro FRM Area.