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Penn Plaza Relocation Efforts Having a Positive Impact on a Difficult Situation

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Photo courtesy of J.L. Martello

Photo courtesy of J.L. Martello

In late 2015, Neighborhood Allies was brought on to manage the relocation services actively being provided to tenants residing in Penn Plaza who are facing displacement from their apartments. This came as a result of a dissemination of non-renewal notices that were sent to residents from the property owner notifying them that their leases would not be renewed and they would have 90 days to relocate and make way for redevelopment of the site.

In partnership, and with support from partners including the URA, Mayor Peduto’s Office, Interstate Acquisition Services (IAS), and the Penn Plaza Tenant Council, our work began in late November, 2015.

Over the last 2 ½ months, we and our partners have worked very hard to make the best out of this unfortunate situation. Our first step was to establish a fully-staffed relocation office located on site at Penn Plaza to serve as a one-stop shop for residents looking for support and assistance as they began to search for new housing options. IAS is providing the day-to-day services to residents, which entails everything from the identification of a regularly updated list of replacement dwellings and assistance accessing relocation payments to access to a computer, free internet and phone, moving supplies, transportation and connection to human and social services.

Thousands of available rental listings have been provided for resident consideration since the inception of the relocation office. Available properties in the immediate East Liberty and surrounding neighborhoods has been emphasized throughout this process, but other rental properties with lease rates equal to or less than with those at Penn Plaza in other regions of Pittsburgh are also included for consideration. In addition to maintaining and updating this list of available rental properties, the relocation team is also working individually with residents to target specific properties that match their search criteria and process applications to potential apartments.

Thus far, over 80 individuals have successfully vacated Penn Plaza and over $160,000 in relocation benefits have been paid to eligible residents. Through Neighborhood Allies’ partnership with The Mission Continues, over the weekend a group of 12 returning Veterans from the Pittsburgh Local Service Platoon, along with the relocation office staff, showed up with boxes and a uhaul truck and volunteered their time and energy to help three residents pack up, move them and their belongings to new apartments, and even assisted unpacking for one elderly resident. The relocation staff also arranged, with the landlord, to allow residents to take a refrigerator from Penn Plaza to their new apartments if they needed one. The Mission Continues Local Platoon is planning to come out for at least one more work day before the end of February to help more residents with their move.

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Even with this progress, we are still faced with a difficult time line as well as a shortage of readily available and accessible affordable housing in East Liberty. As such, our aim has been to find new and creative solutions to help support these residents and connect them with the resources that they desperately need.

Some of the other support services being offered include:

  • Transportation services for residents that resulted in accepted applications for rental units in new neighborhoods
  • Coordination with the Housing Authority to provide updated listings of Section 8 Voucher eligible properties to the applicable residents
  • Connection with the Department of Human Services for residents with disabilities and the elderly, so that additional support services can be provided
  • Referrals to Financial Opportunity Centers for residents expressing an interest in improving their financial capabilities

For more information, or if you are interested in assisting or partnering contact Zak Thomas at zthomas@lisc.org.

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