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Monroeville high on list of affordable communities

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Businesses fill both sides of Route 22 in Monroeville, Friday, May 24th, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Federal money will help pay for preemption sensors on traffic lights along the Route 22 corridor. Similar sensors have been in place along Route 22 in Monroeville, above, since the 1990s.

Monroeville and Plum were ranked among the top 15 most affordable places to live in Pennsylvania, according to a ranking system published this month by Movoto.com.

The study factored adjusted median income, unemployment rank, utility costs, food costs, median home price and miscellaneous costs such as restaurants and entertainment.

“If you look at the housing, the housing market is still strong and still affordable,” Monroeville Mayor Greg Erosenko said.

“Overall, we have a pretty strong market.”

Movoto is a real-estate website that offers potential homebuyers information about home values, neighborhoods and real estate agents.

The 2013 study examined communities with populations of at least 10,000 residents during the last U.S. Census.

The criteria narrowed the candidates to 68 places, according to the Movoto website.

Monroeville was ranked 13th on the list. Plum was ranked fifth.

Monroeville already was touted nationally in August as one of the top 25 most-affordable places to buy a home by CNN Money, a subsidiary of CNN News.

The CNN Money list — which ranked Monroeville 22nd — was based on the ratio of a community's median income to median home price.

The total value of real-estate assessments in Monroeville increased 19 percent as a result of the 2012 Allegheny County property reassessments.

Although 19 percent might sound like a sizable jump, it was less than the 27 percent increase in real- estate assessments that the average Allegheny County community experienced during the reassessment process. The average assessed value of a home in Monroeville is $107,700 for tax purposes.

But Zillow.com — an online real estate search engine — sets the median home value in Monroeville at about $120,000.

That figure has increases by 4.4 percent over the last year, according to Zillow.

The average home sale in Monroeville this year is estimated at $130,000, according to Trulia.com.

More homes are available for purchase in Monroeville than neighborhoods farther east such as Murrysville and Plum, which has helped keep them affordable in recent years, said Coldwell Banker Real Estate Agent Dick Reid, who has sold homes throughout the eastern suburbs.

“When there's more supply, the demand can be met easier without pushing up prices,” Reid said.

Plum also has been honored twice in as many years for qualities that homebuyers often seek.

Plum was ranked as one of the 100 safest cities in America in both 2012 and 2013 by Neighborhood Scout, a neighborhood search engine designed for home buyers and movers.

“It goes to show what a great asset Plum is in being safe and affordable,” Plum Mayor Richard Hrivnak said.

“The community has known it for a long time,” he said.

Hrivnak said both designations should help attract residents and businesses to Plum, where there is no mercantile tax.

A mercantile tax is imposed in Monroeville, along with a 2014 tax increase that was not factored in to the Movoto ranking system.

The tax rate for homes and businesses increased 1.57 mills, so a potential homebuyer seeking a $100,000 house in Monroeville would pay $157 more in taxes this year than they would have last year.

The tax increase also will take a hit on businesses in Monroeville, said Republican Committee member Les Neilly, who criticized council at citizens night meetings for the tax increase.

“Businesses are going to be hesitant to come to Monroeville, and they'll look for a more tax friendly area,” Neilly said.

“There also are businesses here that might look to relocate.”

But the new millage rate keeps the town in the bottom 25 percent in Allegheny County while maintaining a collection of services that include municipal owned and maintained dispatch center, garbage collection and library, Erosenko said.

“Everyone made it very clear in my travels they wanted to keep our services safe,” Erosenko said.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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