|Posted by Elwin Green on May 22, 2013 at 2:10 AM|
(UPDATE: May 22, 2013, 2:36 p.m.)
In a press conference held this morning in Homewood, members of the Black Political Empowerment Project joined with residents to call for a moratorium on the demolition of homes in largely Black and low-income neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and in Allegheny County..
The press conferences follows a letter that B-PEP sent to government officials last week expressing its concern.
In that letter, sent to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and members of both City Council and County Council, B-PEP chairman and CEO Tim Stevens wrote, "We believe the massive rapid demolition of the housing stock, particularly within the African American and low income communities, is a clear and present danger to these communities' existence."
He continues by noting, "As of May 1, 2013 there were some 231 condemned properties in the community of Homewood. It is hard to believe there are that many homes in the Homewood community alone that rise to the level of condemnatin according to the building code of Pennsylvania."
The letter requests that, with the exception of properties determined to be an immediate and extreme threat to the safety of the community, the condemned properties "be left for rehabilitation" by neighborhood nonprofits.
A representative of one of those nonprofits, Homewood Renaissance Association, was the press conference. The association was created by House Of Manna, a Presbyterian mission church in Homewood pastored by Rev. Eugene "Free Dom" Blackwell.
Sean Finch, diector of RSA's All for Life program (highlighted in a Post-Gazette feature story last year) described how the program began.
"There were 15 young men that were literally taken right off the corner of Frankstown and Homewood Avenue," he said. "There were guys that Rev. Blackwell went after personally while he was actually out street preaching."
Now 10 of those young men are on the verge of completing their third semester of training in the building trades so that they rehabilitate abandoned properties in Homewood. Three went back to college - two at Community College of Allegheny County and one at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Resident William D. Anderson, whom Stevens credited with putting the housing demolitions on B-PEP's agenda, said that rehabilitation should be the City's primary approach to abandoned houses.
"These properties have not reached the level of condemnation based on the building inspection code of Pennsylvania," Anderson said. "These building inspectors are violating this law, using it to both violate peoples' right to own property and their right to due process.
"These buildings could easiy be rehabbed, basically, with the money that you're paying...to have these properties demolished."
Stevens said that B-PEP will attend next Wednesday's meeting of City Council to present its concerns there.
Categories: Real Estate