Peduto makes strides to conquer water, affordable housing issues in Pittsburgh

Mayor Peduto speaks to Pitt College Democrats in September. On Tuesday, he talked about plans involving water and affordable housing. Meghan Sunners | Assistant Visual Editor

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is tackling two life necessities in the city: water and housing.

The mayor released two statements on Tuesday afternoon saying he plans to look into the water crisis and create more affordable housing opportunities for Pittsburgh natives.

After an unexpected flush and boil advisory due to low levels of chlorine in the water from one treatment plant, Peduto said the Office of Municipal Investigations is inspecting the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s water system. They are currently testing methods to determine what led to the advisory last week and how to avoid similar incidents in the future.

“This is not a fishing expedition. We simply want to discover what went wrong and how to keep these events from happening again,” Peduto said in a press release on Tuesday.

The mayor’s administration also requested Auditor General Eugene DePasquale conduct an investigation on the PWSA because he is an outsider to the situation. Both DePasquale and the OMI are currently investigating and conducting interviews with PWSA employees. According to Timothy McNulty, a spokesperson for the mayor, there is not a set end date for the investigation

at this time.

Although Robert Weimar, interim director of engineering at PWSA, said the flush and boil advisory was not related to lead, the mayor is also requesting an audit of lead-testing kits and results sent back to users.

According to the mayor’s press release, from January to December 2016, 6,625 residents ordered testing kits from the PWSA, but only 3,100 were returned back to PWSA for review. This could either mean kits are not getting to residents in the first place, or residents are not sending in their water samples for testing.

In addition to the PWSA investigation, the mayor’s administration is addressing the pressing issue of affordable housing in Pittsburgh and how to financially support it.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh board will vote Thursday on which monetary plans they support to increase affordable housing opportunities in the city. The discussion and vote will affect five regions in the area: Morningside, Downtown, Larimer, East Liberty and North Side.

“The need for affordable housing is one of the biggest issues facing not only Pittsburgh but cities across the world. I’m happy to be working with the URA and stakeholders across our city to provide more such housing and adopt policies to ensure more affordable housing initiatives in the future,” Peduto said in press release Tuesday.

Affordable housing has been an ongoing issue in Pittsburgh, especially for the past few months. Several protests have broken out across the city with one most recently taking place in East Liberty on Inauguration Day as an underlying theme during the Intersectional Women’s march.

The protesters who attend these events have called for an increase in quality of affordable homes as well as more low-income homes in developments across the city.

According to the press release, these are the plans the board will vote on:

-Converting the former Morningside School on Jancey Street into a 46-unit apartment building with 39 affordable units specifically for seniors

-Financing renovations to Wood Street Commons in Downtown to create 258 single-occupancy rooms, including 32 emergency shelter units and 12 housing units for individuals who are mentally ill

-To demolish the former East Liberty Gardens in the Larimer and East Liberty areas to create 150 mixed-income housing units

-To issue a $15 million tax exemption to support 75 affordable housing units in the California Kirkbride and Central Northside neighborhoods of North Side

In total, this plan would create 324 units of affordable housing for Pittsburgh residents. With the affordable housing vote on Thursday and the PWSA investigation still underway, the mayor’s office did not release any information on when actions will start taking place for either issue.

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