In August, a local nonprofit released a study detailing the rise of corporations and investors buying homes in the city of Pittsburgh, finding that these sales rose 10% over the past decade.
The report, released by the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), said in 2010, corporations or investors purchased 15.5% of the available housing market. In 2021, that rose to nearly 25%.
It also included that “corporate entities paid 70.2% of the average sale price, compared to all purchases in Pittsburgh, and 72.4% of the average sale price in the remaining parts of Allegheny County.” Many of the census tracts with a higher share of corporate sales were reflected in “historically Black and/or Low- and Moderate-Income (LMI) communities.”
According to data collected through New Sun Rising’s Vibrancy Index, 62.7% of Allegheny County residents are homeowners and 13.4% spend more than one third of their total income towards housing and utilities.
Affordable housing falls under Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11), as do transit issues such as walkability and bikeability, green space, and responsible planning.
Focusing on affordable housing in our region, analysis shows that Southwestern PA communities that fall within the lowest 20% for SDG 11 also rank lower for No Poverty (SDG 1), Zero Hunger (SDG 2), and Life on Land (SDG 15). These communities with the lowest sustainable cities index scores have 5.65x the racial and ethnic diversity of those scoring highest.
There are a total of 17 SDG’s, which were created globally as a call to action to raise the quality of life for all people and preserve the future of our planet.
“[Investors] look at where there is economic value and what are the opportunities for development, and we’re forgetting [about the people],” said Becca Simon, former director of programming at Grounded. “There’s not a sense of urgency around the fact that in Allegheny County and in the city of Pittsburgh we’ve seen a major displacement of predominantly Black people in this area.”
Grounded is based in Bakery Square and aims to improve the social, economic, and environmental health of distressed and transitional communities by building capacity to reclaim vacant and underutilized land.
Furthermore, through an assessment conducted by the City of Pittsburgh from 2015-2019, it was found that low-income renters, Black households, and Black homeownership declined over that five year period.
In the same vein, the lack of access to reliable public transit weighs more heavily on diverse populations and LMI communities.
A study done by Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) and Carnegie Mellon University’s Tech4Society found that in 2022, 38 out of 105 Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT) routes were below 50% reliability for at least one month. In June 2022 specifically, there was 8% less transit service across Allegheny County compared to October 2019.
Another study done by PPT in 2018 found that 81% of PRT riders make less than $50,000 annually and 48% identified as people of color.
“Public transit in Allegheny County has always relied on low-income residents and Black riders as its primary constituencies,” according to the “No Greater Need, No Greater Opportunity” study from PPT.
The impacts of unreliable transportation and inadequate affordable housing contribute to the lack of progress on SDG11 and lowers our region’s overall Vibrancy Index score.
“There needs to be a concerted effort if we are concerned about equitable transportation tied to equitable housing, and equitable housing is having access to the things that people get to enjoy or benefit from,” said Chris Sandvig, executive director of Mobilify Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Collectively, Sandvig said we need to change the way we think about housing and transportation, and move away from car-centered culture to increase vibrancy in our communities.
“Where are the [resources] that the most vulnerable communities need to get to in their lives, and to what degree are we concentrating those in such a way that they are along more resilient transit lines?,” Sandvig said.
New Sun Rising supports multiple projects through our fiscal sponsorship program and partners with organizations that are uplifting sustainable cities and communities. Contact us to get informed, connected, or help resource the work of Millvale Ecodistrict Collaborative, Triboro Ecodistrict, Hazelwood Initiative, District PGH, and The Partnership Network.
This Power in Numbers data story is part of New Sun Rising’s commitment to using data, technology, organizing, communication, and creativity to help people advocate for the future they envision. Learn more about the Power in Numbers initiative and access the Vibrancy Portal platform. Is there something that you would like to share about health and well-being in your community? Contribute to the conversation through the Community Voice feedback form.
The Vibrancy Index helps people to understand conditions in their community through 50 institutional data points. The VI also generates sub-indices in Culture, Sustainability, Opportunity, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).