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Pittsburgh's realty transfer tax could be going up

| Monday, July 17, 2017, 5:33 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
The city skyline from the West End Overlook on Thursday, May 26, 2016.

Pittsburgh City Council at two public meetings Tuesday will discuss increasing the city realty transfer tax and borrowing $100 million to raise money to support housing for the poor.

Council is hosting an information session at 1:30 p.m. and a public hearing at 6 p.m. Both meetings are open to the public and will be held in council chambers on the fifth floor of the City-County Building, Downtown. The public is permitted to speak.

Councilmen Ricky Burgess of North Point Breeze and R. Daniel Lavelle of the Hill District are leading efforts to create new housing and rehabilitate older homes for those living below the poverty line.

Council established an Affordable Housing Task Force in 2015 in response to soaring rental rates in neighborhoods such as East Liberty, where development is booming. Task force officials estimated 17,000 city residents need housing at below competitive market rates.

In May, Burgess and Lavelle introduced legislation that would increase the transfer tax by 1 percentage point. A separate bill would authorize the Urban Redevelopment Authority to borrow $100 million. The tax increase is expected to generate $10 million a year that would be used to pay off the debt, according to Burgess.

Local realtors have panned the tax hike proposal, saying increasing it from 4 percent of a property's sale price to 5 percent would stymie real estate investment and push potential home buyers to suburbs where the tax rate is lower.

The transfer tax is divided among the city, which receives 2 percent, and Pittsburgh Public Schools and the state, which each receive 1 percent. It is typically split between the seller and buyer of a property.

Burgess and Lavelle said the money would provide affordable homes and reduce blighted properties in impoverished neighborhoods by filling vacant lots and improving dilapidated housing stock.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or @bobbauder.

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