Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Cheap Old Houses edition | Affordable-ish Housing | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Cheap Old Houses edition

click to enlarge Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Cheap Old Houses edition
Photo: Courtesy of Zillow
414 Saint Joseph St.

So, there’s an Instagram account called Cheap Old Houses that started showing various semi-historic homes around the world that cost $100,000-ish dollars. It’s grown to include 2.6 million followers, a book, and a soon-to-debut HGTV show. (I admit, I’ve perused a house or two in remote, seaside parts of Crete and Scandinavia that they’ve featured). Apparently, they’ve recently found Pittsburgh – a house in Mt. Oliver, specifically. It’s well preserved and hasn’t been gutted and turned into a blank white minimalist shell (yet). And it’s selling for $85,000.

Mt. Oliver is one of those city neighborhoods that’s cheap for a reason — it’s been a long time since more people have moved in than moved out (or got old and died). But you also don’t even have to squint to find a bright side here: it’s got a dense, walkable core and strong small businesses like Brown Bear Bread Café, and Flavor of Puerto Rico and the only-in-Pittsburgh combination coffee/breakfast/metal fabrication shop ECHT Coffee House. It’s got hundreds of small brick and wood-frame homes that were once some immigrant steelworker’s fondest dream of America.

If Mt. Oliver turns into the Strip District overnight and these little Pittsburgh grandma houses dotting the hillsides all become luxury condos/Airbnb rentals, well — I hereby retroactively rescind any stated desire that people should buy any of these houses. But, since that’s a fairly unlikely outcome, go ahead and seek out the cheap old houses of your dreams here.

HILLTOP

For sale: 414 Saint Joseph St. $129,000. Mt. Oliver
So, we should probably point out that Mt. Oliver does NOT have unlimited houses for sale at ridiculous prices. But yeah, there are a few. This brick, three-bedroom house has 2,705 square feet and a very nice porch to give your dreams some air — and for plenty of people, that’s enough. If you require three garages, vast acreages of lawn, and perhaps a helipad, you are probably looking in the wrong place.

click to enlarge Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Cheap Old Houses edition
Photo: Courtesy of Zillow
718 Brownsville Rd.
For rent: 718 Brownsville Rd., $700/month, Knoxville
Every era has their relics who just won’t move on. But no matter how hard we blast Biggie and Nirvana out the windows of our teal ’92 Grand Am, the rents of the ‘90s won’t be coming back. But, in certain pockets of Pittsburgh, when the moon is right...

If this house was anywhere near the East End, it would be some lawyer or professor’s decades-long restoration project, with a million-dollar listing waiting at the end of the tunnel. But this is way up in the part of town informally called the Hilltop, which gets way less attention than the East End, and is priced accordingly. (Kids, back in the ‘90s, even Shadyside had $700 rents).
click to enlarge Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Cheap Old Houses edition
Photo: Courtesy of Zillow
2012 Spring St.
For sale: 2012 Spring St., $79,900. Arlington
“Show me ‘Cheap Old Houses’ near Mt. Oliver — but make them even older and cheaper.” Though that white siding has the sickly pallor of long-past industrial pollution (a coat of paint would help), this house’s single-minded pursuit of simplicity — a box, with a door and window in front — is charming, to a degree. Maybe the American Dream is just a made-up thing to sell you more than you really want or need, and maybe you don’t need more than this (1,034 square feet).
click to enlarge Affordable-ish Housing in Pittsburgh: Cheap Old Houses edition
Photo: Courtesy of Zillow
948 Industry St.
For rent: 948 Industry St., $1,199/month. Arlington
There’s so much going on here. Sometimes houses don’t adhere to a particular style, and just get remuddled and added-on-to until they reach a form that’s beyond time and place. Not every decision here was ideal, but this place has some appeal regardless. The cement-block porch is kind of harsh, but that curious cupola at the very top is intriguing and unusual. This features two bedrooms, one bath, and one little side-yard big enough for a small dog or child to run around in.

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