Pittsburgh Affordable Housing Crisis: Is Privatization the Solution?

Report by Daniel McClymonds, Jackie Smith, Connor Chapman, Randall Taylor
February 2022

University Center for Social and Urban Research   (Pittsburgh)

Privatization of public housing and other utilities has become a key tool for cities that face fiscal austerity and an increasingly competitive, globalized marketplace. Steady reductions in corporate taxation over past decades and the financial crisis of 2008 have constrained city budgets in Pittsburgh and elsewhere, accelerating privatization and other austerity measures and fueling a global housing crisis. Yet, privatization policies have generated little public scrutiny and debate. Over time, housing has become more subject to market pressures and less accessible to many residents, particularly the most vulnerable. This white paper investigates the many unrecognized costs of privatization and public-private partnerships relative to their benefits in helping address the affordable housing crisis and remedy Pittsburgh’s deepening racial inequities. We identify three fundamental problems as the loss of public assets, private extraction of public resources, and diminished local democracy. We identify alternative approaches that can provide more cost-effective and democratic ways to provide stable, safe, and affordable housing for residents.