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Housing Progress Playbook: 500 Units in 500 Days to Stabilize Population

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500 in 500 is a countywide mobilization to speed the path to stability for those who arrive at emergency shelters, to restore our emergency shelters to their intended purpose, and to ensure that no one needs to live in an emergency shelter or on the street.

500

affordable housing united proposed

500

days allotted to meet goal

22

individuals per month on average went from shelter to a rental unit or bridge housing in 2023

7

families per month on average went from shelter to a rental unit or bridge housing in 2023

Allegheny County is bringing affordable housing to the area’s unhoused population, and property owners are invited to rethink how vacant buildings can be used effectively to support this effort.

On June 6, officials announced their plan to identify 500 deeply subsidized units in 500 days, with the intent to help move people out of shelters and into stable, safe housing. Among those vacant buildings with the potential to serve as bridge housing properties are a former Vincentian facility, converted market-rate units and other converted properties that are residential-adjacent, such as motels or nursing homes. Allegheny County Economic Development Department is using federal housing funds to help fix up housing units that were vacant due to the lack of funds for necessary repairs. In addition, the 500 in 500 initiative will leverage the Low Income Housing Tax Credit units to help connect qualified tenants with existing programs designed to help the very lowest income individuals find affordable housing.

Erin Dalton,Director of Allegheny County Human Services, said that the plan addresses two big problems: a steep rise in unsheltered homelessness in the region and an influx of low-vulnerability people, such as those with some income or who are homeless for the first time, staying in local shelters.

In 2023, more than 3,000 people in Allegheny County stayed in emergency shelter – with the average length of stay increasing as housing costs rise and affordable housing becomes harder to find. Almost 30% of Allegheny County households spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, making it hard to afford other necessities like groceries, transportation and health services.

500 in 500 is about “fixing long-standing governmental issues” and “accelerating efforts and capital to repair existing housing and possibly converting vacant nursing homes and hotels to affordable housing,” Dalton said at a recent media briefing attended by IndexPGH.

County officials aren’t the only ones addressing homelessness in the region. U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, for example, has advanced $3 million in congressionally directed spending to support 500 in 500. She’s also cosponsored legislation to ensure more access to housing and healthcare for those experiencing homelessness, such as the bipartisan DIRECT Care for the Homeless Act that creates a pilot program to expand street medicine services. And Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey signed an emergency declaration for the Second Avenue Commons fire to help expedite repair of the only low-barrier shelter in the city.

Permanent, deeply affordable housing units can become a powerful tool for people identified as having low needs for social services:those with “few to no interactions with the criminal justice system, homeless system, and emergency and intensive medical or behavioral services” and often with significant employment histories, according to the county Department of Housing Services. For those with high-risk/vulnerability, the agency has programming through Rapid Rehousing and Permanent Supportive Housing.

In-person services are available to individuals experiencing homelessness from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the Human Services Building at One Smithfield Street in Downtown.

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