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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

Fair and Equitable Housing Assembly promotes student housing rights

A+student+interacts+with+a+presenter+at+the+Pittsburgh+People%E2%80%99s+Assembly+for+Fair+and+Equitable+Housing+at+the+Frick+Fine+Arts+Building+on+Saturday.
Bhaskar Chakrabarti | Staff Photographer
A student interacts with a presenter at the Pittsburgh People’s Assembly for Fair and Equitable Housing at the Frick Fine Arts Building on Saturday.

For low-income renters, Tenant Organizer at Northside Coalition for Fair Housing Jala Rucker said paying rent is sometimes a difficult situation, which is why she encourages students to petition for the right to counsel in case of eviction. 

“That’s the main focus of today for me, is the right to counsel, so tenants can have a legal aid to represent them right at the magistral level before it goes even further,” Rucker said. “We want it in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, for tenants to have an attorney appointed for them at that very first stage.”

Various housing groups and student leaders came together to host the Pittsburgh People’s Assembly for Fair and Equitable Housing in the Frick Fine Arts Building on Saturday morning. The event is held once a year for Fair Housing Month

The Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, one of the organizations at the event, works to help renters improve their living conditions. 

“We help folks throughout Allegheny County. When individuals reach out from whichever community they may be from, we figure out what their needs are by doing an assessment,” Rucker said. “We go forward to figure out what those individuals need from us, and how we can help them move further.”

Casa San Jose, another group at the assembly, works to provide housing rights for the Latino immigrant community, Nora Gonzalez, case manager for Casa San Jose, said one of their priorities is a renter’s right to counsel, and offered attendees the opportunity to sign a petition to codify the right into law. 

“It’s a campaign that we’re doing to try to secure legal counsel, basically an attorney for someone facing eviction. The same way someone facing a criminal case would be signed to a public attorney, anyone facing eviction will get an attorney,” Gonzalez said. 

In order to achieve the right to counsel, Rucker said she encouraged Pitt students to unionize and form a tenant council. 

“The only reason I think rents are set so high for students is because more than likely they ask you if you’re a student on the application,” Rucker said. “Once they see it’s a student, they can hike rents high, because a lot of the time students are getting a check through the school to pay for housing, or their parents are paying for it when their parents already have their own mortgages.” 

In addition to organizing, Rucker said for students to apply for other affordable housing outside of Oakland. 

“I know there are some in Oak Hill you can apply for which is an affordable housing unit, which goes based on 30% of your income,” Rucker said. 

To further alleviate living costs, Rucker recommended students apply for resources that can “be attached to utilities,” such as a “CAP program for light and gas that is based on your monthly income.”

 

In addition to the housing groups, the Pittsburgh People’s Assembly hosted breakout sessions that went further in depth on different topics. One of these discussions focused on the “student housing struggle,” centering on problems with housing and potential solutions. 

During the discussion, students voiced their frustrations with finding affordable housing off campus. A graduate student in the audience said they find it difficult to afford rent, especially with low wages. They also mentioned how international students face restraints on how much they can work, which can make it hard to afford housing. 

“There’s a conversation that needs to happen. I’m hoping that the space that we have here is a way to start having these conversations as far as driving questions for building a student voice in the city of Pittsburgh and at the university,” panelist Connor Chapman, a Pitt sociology graduate student, said. 

To help with student housing rights, Chapman said he’s worked with undergraduate students to form a group of people who are interested in understanding Pittsburgh-specific policies. 

“It’s such a transient group of people,” Chapman said. “We leave in the summers, we leave for winter break. How do we get people to actually really care for a place beyond just the campus?”

About the Contributor
Emma Hannan, Staff Writer