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Council OKs tax cut for 'visitability'

Tony LaRussa
| Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

Property owners in Pittsburgh who include features in buildings that ease navigation for people with disabilities will be eligible for tax breaks if the state Legislature signs off on a measure approved unanimously Tuesday by City Council.

Councilman Sala Udin introduced an amendment to the ordinance that delays its implementation for 90 days or until after it is approved by state lawmakers.

The changes to the design of buildings are part of a growing trend called "visitability," making buildings easier to visit for people with disabilities.

To make a property visitable, it must have:

  • Lower light switches, door handles instead of knobs, and wider doors and hallways to accommodate people in wheelchairs.

  • At least one entrance without steps.

  • At least one bathroom on the accessible floor that is big enough to accommodate a wheelchair.

    The ordinance gives a tax credit of up to $2,500 over five years on the additional tax revenue generated when a property's value increases as a result of renovation or the construction of a building on vacant land.

    Advocates for the physically disabled say such changes also can help older people remain in their homes longer and improve the quality of life for the disabled by allowing them to visit relatives and friends who have "visitable" homes.

    Advocates for the physically disabled hailed council's action, despite the waiting period.

    "We realize that these kinds of changes won't happen overnight," said Lucy Spruill, 60, of Squirrel Hill. "Because of Pittsburgh's terrain and older housing stock, we may not have 100 percent visitability. But this is a great start."

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