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McKeesport, county focus on handicapped accessibility in rental housing

Vertullo | Daily News
Angelia Christina of McKeesport Housing Corp. talks with resident Frank Miklos, who will receive bathroom upgrades in his Summit Street rental unit through the Accessibility Modification Program. Jennifer R.

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By Jennifer R. Vertullo
Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 1:06 a.m.
 

McKeesport is partnering with Allegheny County to bring the Accessibility Modification Program to city landlords whose tenants may need improved accessibility.

“It may be a handicapped ramp outside or grab bars in the bathroom area,” McKeesport Housing Corp. executive director Jim Haughey said. “It's not a program that will make your place ADA-compliant, but it may help you provide reasonable accommodations.”

McKeesport Housing Corp. is facilitating applications for projects not to exceed $4,500 each, thanks to a contract linking the city to the county's Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

“It's a very nice opportunity for the city of McKeesport to be able to help enhance some of the properties within the city while accommodating residents with disabilities,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said.

The Accessibility Modification Program will be available through June in McKeesport, a time frame in which McKeesport Housing Corp. officials said they hope to complete at least 10 projects.

Each project requires a two-part application for the landlord and tenant. The tenant must qualify financially by earning 80 percent or less of the area median income, which translates to $36,500 for a single person.

Program coordinator Angelia Christina, a fair housing officer with McKeesport Housing Corp., said the city's participation in Allegheny County's Accessibility Modification Program illustrates McKeesport's commitment to furthering fair housing opportunities.

In November 2011, McKeesport entered a voluntary compliance agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to “affirmatively further” fair housing opportunities.

“This will make existing properties more accessible,” Christina said. “As people's circumstances change, they may find themselves in need of certain modifications in a unit where they are comfortable and don't want to leave.”

Frank Miklos, who moved into a first-floor apartment along Summit Street after suffering a heart attack and stroke 10 years ago, completed an application last week with landlord Ron Maloney.

“I have a great landlord who is willing to help me out in any way he can,” Miklos told Christina during a tour of his apartment. “We want to concentrate on the bathroom area, so I can get around easier in there.”

Miklos' left leg is paralyzed. He goes outside with a motorized wheelchair or scooter, and he uses a cane indoors.

“I get around fine, because I'm used to it,” Miklos said. “This is a great program that will make my life easier at home. People should know that if they need help, it's out there.”

McKeesport Housing Corp. also operates programs to improve owner-occupied homes, but with different funding sources.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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