Catapult Greater Pittsburgh awarded $3 million from JPMorgan Chase

Catapult Greater Pittsburgh Team standing outside smiling
Award money will be used to address residential vacancy and expand housing supply and access in Pittsburgh.

Award money will be used to address residential vacancy and expand housing supply and access in Pittsburgh.

Today, Catapult Greater Pittsburgh announced it was awarded $3 million from JPMorgan Chase to tackle the housing supply and affordability crisis in Pittsburgh by addressing residential vacancy and abandonment in the city and helping existing homeowners with title clearances and estate planning assistance.

Catapult Greater Pittsburgh will use the $3 million to acquire and rehab vacant or abandoned properties in the community in an effort to stabilize neighborhoods and keep property in the hands of the community. Catapult will also use the funding to support their CLEAR (Clinic for Legal Equity and Repairs) program, which supports people living in Allegheny County who do not have a legal title to the property in their name. CLEAR participants are eligible for home repairs, title clearance, and estate planning to ensure that they can grow their wealth and transfer assets across generations.

“A big portion of our city’s disrepair, vacancy, and abandonment issues can be attributed to tangled title issues, particularly in low-income, Black communities. Families are losing billions of dollars in generational wealth across the country because of this issue, and we’re excited that we can help families here in Pittsburgh resolve these complicated legal matters while also helping resolve health and safety repair issues that could force a family to walk away from a home. Going one step further, I’m thrilled that we will be providing estate planning and will preparation workshops to help proactively protect these family and community assets.” 

– Tammy Thompson, Executive Director, Catapult Greater Pittsburgh

“Housing that is safe and affordable is a critical pillar of any healthy community,” said Lisa Haley, Market Executive, JPMorgan Chase. “Today’s commitment aims to make stable housing affordable for all Pittsburgh residents, especially low-income individuals and families. By investing in long-neglected communities, we hope to generate learnings that can be used to address the housing supply crisis and catalyze change in communities across the country.”

Additional funding for the CLEAR program comes from Pittsburgh-based foundation McAuley Ministries which provided a grant of $50,000 to do this work in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Neighborhood Legal Services, Rising Tide Partners, and the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh all serve as vital program partners.

Advancing Policy Solutions to Increase Homeownership

To further advance solutions that address housing vacancy, the JPMorgan Chase PolicyCenter has released a brief on “Tackling Persistent Residential Vacancy, Abandonment, and Despair,” which shares insights and policy recommendations to address the widespread issue of vacancy. Catapult Greater Pittsburgh is featured in the report for their work to protect existing homeowners and tackle persistent vacancy in Pittsburgh. The goal of the brief is to generate local conversations and learnings that can be further scaled into national solutions. In addition, the JPMorgan Chase PolicyCenter published a policy brief outlining pathways to advancing affordable, sustainable homeownership as well as insights into how untangling titles for heirs property homeowners can support generational wealth building.

The Challenge – Vacant Neighborhoods in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh faces persistent vacancy challenges as a post-industrial rustbelt city with approximately 23,757 existing vacant properties. High rates of neighborhood vacancy discourage investment in the community and are linked to an increase in crime, restricting economic growth. In the past decade, the number of abandoned homes and lots in Pittsburgh doubled in size, with one in five carrying code violations, including collapsed roofs, shattered windows, and electrical hazards.

The issue of tangled titles, or cases where people lack legal titles to the properties they live in, further exacerbates the housing supply problem. According to the nonprofit Neighborhood Legal Services, Allegheny County alone has an estimated 4,000 tangled titles, many of which exist in low-income neighborhoods. The current process for fixing tangled titles in Allegheny County requires a lawyer and is costly and time-consuming, with administrative costs ranging from $1,500-4,000, not including inheritance taxes.

Participants of Catapult’s CLEAR program are eligible for legal services provided through vetted consulting attorneys, including long-time judge and housing advocate Irene Clark. Home repairs will be carried out by local contractors and all services will come at no cost to participants. The goal is to protect existing homes as key assets for generational wealth building within Pittsburgh communities, especially communities that have limited access to this kind of support.

“People are walking away from their properties because they can’t afford attorney fees or home repairs or they can’t get around the barriers of not having title,” said Gabrielle DeMarchi, Director of Equity Protection, Catapult Greater Pittsburgh. “This program will help remove some of those barriers and ensure that the legacy of the home stays intact.”

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