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Black History Month Community Champion Spotlight: Richard Snipe

February 2024
This Black History Month, we’re celebrating community champions, who happen to be part of the talented staff and board at the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh.

Richard Snipe is the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Housing Development Corporation (PHDC), an affiliate of the URA. Rich has been working at the URA and PHDC for 33 years and in that time has made tremendous impact serving Pittsburgh residents. Hear from him:

What community impact and/or outcome are you most proud of achieving in your time with the URA & PHDC? 

In 2000, the PHDC, in collaboration with East Liberty Development Inc. (ELDI), tore down approximately 20 dilapidated rowhouses in the 700 block of Mellon Street and replaced them with ten single-family, detached for-sale houses. Those units were probably the first new construction affordable units built in that community in close to 20 years.    

There were a host of challenges in making this project a reality. Through perseverance, collaboration and educating, we were able to convince two lenders to partner on this important project.

Those units sold for $110,000 in 2001. Today those units are worth over $400,000. This is an example of collaboration that eliminated blight while creating homeownership opportunities and producing wealth for families.  

What do you want for Pittsburgh’s future?  

For Pittsburgh’s future, I want more opportunities for Pittsburghers to become homeowners, especially for Black families. The current 42% gap in homeownership for Black families is one of the worst in history, but one that we can positively change.   

Homeownership is critical for a stable family environment, stronger communities, and a stronger city for everyone.  

Who is a Black leader you most look up to? 

My definition of a leader is someone who inspires passion and motivation in others. Someone who assures those around them that they have the support and tools needed to achieve their goal.  

The late Robert R. Lavelle was the type of leader who I admired. The founder and former owner of Pittsburgh’s oldest Black-owned Real Estate Company (Lavelle Real Estate) and the founder of the first Black-owned Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-backed financial institution (Dwelling House Savings and Loan) in the United States.  

He was a man who led by example. He made most, if not all, of his decisions based on bible principles. Through his unselfish efforts, (in many cases personally guaranteeing the mortgages) countless families were able to become homeowners.

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