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Landlords owe taxes on subsidized housing in Allegheny County

Hundreds of landlords in Allegheny County have failed to pay taxes on their rental property, but they have continued to collect federally subsidized assistance payments.

The total in unpaid county taxes is nearly $245,600 on the county properties located outside the cities of Pittsburgh and McKeesport, county Treasurer John Weinstein said yesterday. The addition of unpaid municipal and school taxes could raise the total to more than $750,000, he said.

Workers in the treasurer's office examined properties owned by landlords who participate in the Section 8 low-income subsidized housing program operated by the county Housing Authority. Landlords enrolled in Section 8 programs in Pittsburgh and McKeesport were not included.

Under the Section 8 program, low-income families pay 30 percent of their income for rent. The authority determines the fair rent rate for the property based on federal guidelines and pays the landlord the difference between the rent and what the tenant pays.

The top unpaid county tax amount by community is $51,941 from rental properties in Wilkinsburg, which has more subsidized housing units than any other municipality in the county -- more than 600. Penn Hills and Swissvale, with more than 150 subsidized units each, are next in line in unpaid taxes.

The largest single delinquent property is owned by a Shaler man, who owes more than $6,500 in unpaid taxes from 2000, 2002 and 2003 on a Sharpsburg rental property. A Wilkinsburg man and a company in Ross each owe more than $9,000 in unpaid taxes on properties in Wilkinsburg and Plum.

Weinstein said he planned to propose a resolution to County Council requesting that the authority board adopt a policy that would require landlords to pay their taxes before they could participate in the Section 8 program.

The agency already has a regulation, however, that requires landlords who want to participate in the program to be up to date on their property taxes, county Housing Authority Executive Director Frank Aggazio said. The authority can also withhold rental assistance payments from landlords who are behind on their taxes, he said.

The authority has about 1,800 landlords in the Section 8 program.

"Basically, if they want their housing assistance payment, they're going to have to be current on their taxes," Aggazio said.

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