Also: Why clean rivers mean thriving communities
By Juliet Martinez
The Sept. 12 community meeting was well attended online and in person. Residents of Greater Hazelwood got a brief introduction to estate planning and living wills, learned about the new affordable homes planned for Flowers Avenue and about the links between clean rivers and healthy communities.
Flowers Avenue affordable homes
Dave Brewton, Hazelwood Initiative Senior Director of Real Estate, described the long process of obtaining three lots on Flowers Avenue from the Pittsburgh Land Bank. Now that the transfer is complete, the organization plans to build three new homes for moderate- to low-income homebuyers.
The homes will have three bedrooms, nine-foot ceilings, 1.5 bathrooms and first-floor laundry facilities.
In the last eight years, Hazelwood Initiative has helped 25 low- to moderate-income people become homeowners and kept 67 rental units affordable.
Over this time, the price of rehabbing has gone up, so the organization decided to build new homes instead.
The homes will cost around $450,000 each to build. About $245,000 of that will come from grants, and the remaining $205,000 will be the selling price. Income-qualified buyers with a credit score of 650 and a down payment of about $2,000 can receive up to $90,000 in loan and grant assistance from the URA's new OwnPGH program, bringing the effective purchase price down as low as $115,000.
If you are interested, get on the wait-list now and start credit counseling. Visit www.hazelwoodinitiative.org/ahop to fill out an interest form.
Hazelwood Initiative is asking the zoning board for a parking variance and to move the property line slightly.
Zoning Board meetings are hosted on Zoom and streamed on YouTube Live on the Pittsburgh City Planning YouTube page. To join the Zoom webinar, go to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85171125255 or call 301-715-8592 with Webinar ID: 851 7112 5255. If not testifying, watch the YouTube Live stream to allow those testifying to be able to join the meeting. To provide public comment, you can:
• Join the virtual meeting and use raise hand function to request to speak.
• Telephone in to the meeting and use the raise hand function by pressing *9.
Zoning Board of Adjustment notices are online at https://pittsburghpa.gov/dcp/upcoming.
Clean rivers, healthy communities
Lisa Brown is the executive director of Watersheds of South Pittsburgh and former board president of Three Rivers Waterkeepers. Three Rivers Waterkeepers stewards 125 miles of river, up the Allegheny, down the Ohio and up the Mon. Watersheds of South Pittsburgh focuses on two streams: Saw Mill Run and Streets Run, which empties into the Mon at Sandcastle.
The mission of Watersheds of South Pittsburgh is to improve the health of those streams through cooperation, education, stewardship and advocacy.
Three Rivers Waterkeepers’ vision is to have swimmable, drinkable, fishable water in the Mon.
The 1972 Clean Water Act took on industrial pollution, but there are other problems, like sewage and fracking waste fluids.
Streams feed into rivers. If a landscaper, for example, dumps excess pesticides or fertilizers into a stream, the chemicals destroy aquatic life in the stream and end up in the river.
What happens on land affects the waters. Planting trees and green space, and gardening organically all help rivers stay healthier. Litter on the streets ends up in streams and clogs the catch basins, causing flooding in basements, yards and streets. Litter also reduces the capacity of sewer system. A system filled with debris cannot hold the water it needs to.
Ms. Brown said litter is one of the most demoralizing things in a neighborhood. Seeing trash on the ground erodes feelings of hope for our communities.
Flooding causes disinvestment in a community over time. Saw Mill Run has had frequent flooding, devastating homes and businesses. The result is vacant businesses, vacant homes and people leaving.
The groups look at what that means to a community and how they can help reverse it. A healthy community has diverse people and businesses; everybody is involved, and people feel hopeful about their future.
“You can’t feel hopeful about the future if you think in two years you're getting flooded out,” she said.
Ms. Brown said the Ohio River basin gets zero federal dollars for improvements. Compare that to Chesapeake Bay, the Everglades, the Missouri River, the Delaware River, which all have line-item allocations in the federal budget for improvements. Three Rivers Waterkeepers is working with other groups to get our region on a level playing field relative to other important waterways.
Estate planning and living wills
Dr. Grace Wankiiri Orsatti, Esq., of Duquesne University Thomas R. Kline School of Law briefly introduced three essential documents people need to protect their families and make sure their wishes are followed if they become ill or after they die.
The last will and testament defines how your belongings and wealth should be distributed after you die. It prevents strife between surviving relatives and keeps your wealth in your family.
A financial power of attorney designates who will oversee your affairs if you are hospitalized. This person makes sure your mortgage or rent, financial commitments and bills are paid.
A healthcare power of attorney designates who will make your healthcare decisions if you cannot speak for yourself. A living will also lets you make clear what kinds of healthcare you want.
Dr. Wankiiri Orsatti will speak at future community meetings about how we can all protect ourselves and prepare our families for the future through estate planning and living wills.
Juliet Martinez is the managing editor of The Homepage.