On July 23-24, Manchester Citizens Corporation held its first Great House Sale, a weekend devoted to promoting a positive image of the neighborhood and selling homes to prospective buyers. More than a month after the event, the organization is moving into phase two of their housing revitalization initiative and hoping to carry their recent success forward.

PHASE ONE—A photo taken from August shows MCC’s progress on the first five homes in the Columbus Square housing development (Photo by J.L. Martello)

“The Great House Sale was great. We had great attendance and it’s from the Great House Sale that we were able to sell the units in the first phase and create a waiting list. We had great participation from local banks and mortgage companies as well as contractors. The kickoff event was attended by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl as well as members of the housing authority and our financial partners,” said MCC Executive Director Ahmed Martin. “The goal of the Great House Sale was to introduce Greater Pittsburgh to the value and the quality of housing stock in Manchester and to promote a positive image of Manchester.”

MCC’s three-pronged housing initiative includes the Renaissance Housing Program, Columbus Square housing development and infill construction program. These are all part of a neighborhood revitalization strategy that aims to eliminate blight and abandonment and increase property values.

“It’s been an ongoing effort, but the latest iteration began in 2009,” Martin said. “To me the most tell tale sign is that all economic backgrounds are looking to move into Manchester and that the profile of Manchester has been on the rise. We think we’ve been successful in that.”

In order to maintain Manchester’s diverse socio-economic composition, most of the houses built and rehabilitated through MCC’s initiatives are being sold to low-incomes families. The Urban Redevelopment Authority is offering assistance to these families through their deferred mortgage program. Income figures were not given to determine what is meant by low-income, or medium income.

“The URA as well as our financial partners have been working to overcome our challenges. I think the challenges are those you would find in any housing market in terms of finding people that might want to buy a home but aren’t ready,” Martin said. “Most of the homes have been sold to buyers whose households were at the median income or below.”

The Renaissance Housing Program is a 38-unit, for-sale redevelopment of a former multi-family portfolio that was acquired through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development foreclosure. To date, seven buildings and nine units have been rehabilitated and sold.

The Columbus Square housing development, which is being built on the former American Electric site, consists of 26 homes. Of those, five homes have been completed and three have been sold.

“What we found is a lot of the people, who expressed interest made too much. So what we’re finding is a diverse group of buyers are interested in Manchester,” Martin said. “The Great House Sale is a marketing tool used to establish a brand as well as the rebranding of Manchester as a whole.”

In an effort to address the neighborhood’s abundance of vacant lots, MCC is working on infill construction to build several new homes. Although the homes will have a modern design, they will fit in with the style of the neighborhood.

The housing initiatives in Manchester involve a long list of partners including URA, Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development, Allegheny County, PNC, HUD, Pittsburgh History Landmarks Foundation, Rep. Wayne Fontana, Rep. Jake Wheatley, Rep. Chealsa Wagner, Councilman Daniel Lavelle, Northside Community Loan Fund, and the Northside Leadership Conference.

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