In October 2017, more than 200 residents of Bethesda-Homewood Properties — subsidized units located in several predominantly Black neighborhoods in Pittsburgh’s East End — were told that their rental subsidy would end within a month. A federal subsidy provided to the property owner was being abated because of the owner’s repeated failure to maintain the properties. Residents were effectively forced to move because of the loss of their rental subsidy, but eligible residents were provided housing vouchers and moving cost assistance.
In some ways, housing vouchers offered opportunity for residents who moved; displaced residents were theoretically able to choose the location of their new homes. In reality, residents had difficulty finding landlords who would accept their housing vouchers, and the majority of displaced residents continued to live in neighborhoods with relatively high needs even after their relocation. While residents had limited geographic choice when it came to using their vouchers, most were still able to move to neighborhoods with comparatively less gun violence and good access to amenities. Half of those residents who completed a telephone survey reported feeling safer in their current neighborhood.
Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) wanted to learn more about the impact of housing displacement on residents of Bethesda-Homewood properties and use the information to inform planning for future mass displacements. This information is especially important in informing racial equity strategies in our region, given that housing displacement disproportionately affects Black residents, with Bethesda-Homewood being no exception.