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ACTION, Rebuilding Together will take over dormant construction programs
ACTION-Housing constructed this new home in 2019 at the corner of Bailie and Cornell avenues. The agency is partnering with the city to build another, similar home nearby. (Tube City Almanac file photo)
McKeesport officials have shifted the city’s housing rehabilitation funds to two different agencies in hopes of breathing new life into projects that had stagnated.
City council this month voted to transfer more than $628,000 in federal Home Investment Partnerships Program grant money from the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 to Allegheny County in exchange for the same amount of money from the county’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
The city’s vision for its residential neighborhoods is about “more than just demolition,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. McKeesport officials also want to see new housing constructed and existing homes preserved, he said.
Council voted 5-0, with Councilors Lu Ethel Nesbit and Keith Soles abstaining, to redirect $153,127 of the funding to Pittsburgh-based ACTION-Housing to construct new housing in McKeesport.
The remaining $474,920 will be redirected to Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh to renovate and rehabilitate existing homes in the city.
The money for 2016, 2017 and 2018 had previously been allocated to the non-profit McKeesport Housing Corp., but Cherepko said that agency had been unable to complete recent projects.
“Over the last couple of years, they had really fallen behind and they weren’t spending this money,” he said. “They got in a little bit over their head and they weren’t following through with some of the contracts they had.”
The good news, Cherepko said, is that county officials were willing to let the city re-allocate the funding.
McKeesport Housing Corp. is not related to the similar-sounding McKeesport Housing Authority, which maintains the city’s public housing complexes as well as the rental voucher program.
The housing corporation was created as an independent non-profit in the 1980s to construct new houses in the city and manage housing rehabilitation projects for low-income homeowners.
A source familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified said an overall decline in county and federal reimbursements for housing development had been hampering the agency for several years. The housing corporation’s last remaining employee quit in 2019, the source said.
Cherepko said Soles, who also serves on the McKeesport Housing Corp. board of directors, was instrumental in getting the funds re-allocated to ACTION and Rebuilding Together.
“It was a long road to get there,” Cherepko said, but Soles “really helped us get some things straightened out.”
In 2019, ACTION-Housing partnered with the city to build a new, $130,000 three-bedroom house at the corner of Bailie and Cornell avenues. Cherepko said ACTION is now gearing up to build another new house next door.
ACTION-Housing also will be working to rehabilitate and remodel vacant houses for resale, the mayor said.
Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, based in Homewood, last year was awarded $150,000 from the state’s Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund for a program to complete home improvements in McKeesport, as well as $225,000 in state Department of Community and Economic Development tax credits.
“We’re very excited now to be able to run with this program full speed ahead,” Cherepko said. “And we’re really excited to be partnering with an entity like Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh.”
Jason Togyer is editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published July 07, 2020.