‘Throwing everything against the wall,’ Pittsburgh’s housing authority aims to dent lengthy waiting lists

Caster Binion says he’s open to “any way we can get affordable housing at a reasonable cost.”

by Rich Lord

As Pittsburgh households waiting for subsidized housing continue to outnumber those receiving such benefits, the agency charged with bridging that gap is dishing bonuses to landlords, floating subsidies to developers and more.

“So we do have a crisis” in regard to affordable housing, Caster Binion, executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh [HACP], said in a December interview with PublicSource. “Rents are going up. So we’re throwing everything against the wall.”

Binion leads an agency responsible for sheltering some 7,755 households, either in its own apartments or those paid through the Housing Choice Voucher program, known as Section 8. At the end of November, there were 11,828 households on the authority’s waiting lists.

“Then you have people in the city of Pittsburgh who have not applied,” Binion added, suggesting that the shortage of affordable housing is even larger than the waiting lists.

The authority has been  criticized for shifting funds meant for vouchers into large, public-private partnerships that build expensive, mixed-income communities. Binion has argued that the authority can’t get enough landlords to accept vouchers, so it has to support construction of new complexes. But rebuilds like Skyline Terrace in the Hill District — which has fewer than half of the low-income units as its predecessor, Addison Terrace — have not addressed the dearth of affordable homes.

“We can’t sit back and not do anything,” Binion said. “We have to be constantly innovative, constantly trying to find a pathway to generate housing where you have a combined list of over 10,000 people.”

Skyline Terrace in the Hill District. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

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‘Throwing everything against the wall,’ Pittsburgh’s housing authority aims to dent lengthy waiting lists

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