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Pittsburgh Non-Profit Partnering
With City on Home Rehabs

State funding, tax-credits will aid residents in Christy Park, Grandview

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
November 19, 2019
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Low-income homeowners in the Christy Park and Grandview (above) neighborhoods of McKeesport will be eligible next year for assistance upgrading their exteriors of their houses, with help from gaming funds and tax credits, local and state officials announced last week. (Tube City Almanac photo)

A Pittsburgh-based non-profit will begin helping residents of two McKeesport neighborhoods rehabilitate their homes with assistance from Pennsylvania gaming revenues.

Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, located in Homewood, has been awarded $150,000 for a program to offer exterior improvements for low-income homeowners in Grandview and Christy Park in 2020, a spokeswoman for McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said.

The money will be provided from the state's Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund, which receives 5.5 percent of the revenues from casinos and other gambling facilities in Pennsylvania.

Separately, the state Department of Community and Economic Development has authorized $225,000 in tax credits for the same home improvement program, as well as $360,000 to the McKees Point Development Group for redevelopment projects and tourism enhancements in the Downtown area.

The tax credits were announced last week by state Sen. Jim Brewster and state Rep. Austin Davis.

Jenn Salmans, director of development for Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, said Monday that the organization hasn't yet received formal notification of the awards and cannot yet accept any applications from homeowners.

"We've only had verbal confirmation so far from the state," Salmans said, "but we're very excited about working in McKeesport in the coming year."

Founded in 1993 with support from the Master Builders Association of Western Pennsylvania and the Greater Pennsylvania Regional Council of Carpenters, Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh has completed more than 2,300 home improvement projects for low-income homeowners in Allegheny County.

The Christy Park and Grandview effort represents RTP's first program in McKeesport.

"As we continue to encourage homeownership, we are happy to have Rebuilding Together expand their focus to include the city of McKeesport," Cherepko said, adding that the program would go hand-in-hand with the city's aggressive effort to tear down abandoned houses under the "McKeesport Rising" initiative.

Using a combination of paid staff and volunteers, Rebuilding Together provides exterior improvements --- including roofs, gutters, windows, porch repairs and accessibility upgrades --- for veterans, senior citizens and homeowners whose annual household income is less than 50 percent of the Pittsburgh area's median.

"Rebuild Together has done great work in the city oif Pittsburgh, and we are excited to partner with them to bring their services to McKeesport," said A.J. Tedesco, McKeesport community development director.

In a statement released by the city, Steve Hellner-Burris, chief executive officer of Rebuilding Together, said the organization tries to focus its renovation efforts for maximum impact.

"Where we do concentrated blocks of owner-occupied renovations ... markets become more stable and begin to improve," Hellner-Burris said. "As we now move outside of the city of McKeesport, we look for those same results to occur."

The gaming funds, the tax credits and additional expected funding are expected to provide $600,000 for home renovations in McKeesport in 2020, the mayor's spokeswoman said.

Separately, additional state tax credits were approved for other projects in the Mon-Yough area through the Neighborhood Assistance Program.

“These tax credits will help fund a variety of community development projects in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties,” Brewster said. “There are a wide variety of projects that received tax credits, with each having a great impact on neighborhoods and communities throughout the region.”

The other local projects approved for tax credits through the NAP program include:

Braddock: $160,000, Mon Valley Initiative to support homebuying and new housing;

Clairton: $380,000, Economic Development South to spur investment and restore housing stock;

Duquesne: $110,000, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to expand and improve services and rehabilitate a building;

East Pittsburgh: $110,000, This Generation Connect to develop a "drop-in" space for social services; and

Munhall: $110,000, Carnegie Library of Homestead toward rehabilitation of the swimming pool; and $165,000 to the Best of the Batch Foundation toward construction of a youth sports complex.

“These tax credits are critical to our revitalization efforts underway in the Mon Valley,” Davis said. “These organizations go above and beyond to spur revitalization and improve our community, and I applaud their efforts and commitment to improving our region.”

Jason Togyer is the editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at jtogyer@gmail.com.

Editor's Note: The writer has a conflict of interest. He is a volunteer for the McKees Point Development Group and a staff member at Mon Valley Initiative. Opinions expressed at Tube City Almanac are not those of McKees Point Development Group or Mon Valley Initiative. Neither group exercises editorial control at Tube City Almanac and no information is released to Tube City Almanac by either group without being simultaneously released to other news media organizations.

Originally published November 19, 2019.

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