To rent or to buy? For many residents, home ownership might seem out of the question. A free home-buying workshop from the non-profit Pittsburgh Housing Development Association (PHDA) will be held in Wilkinsburg on Monday, Nov. 3 to offer a roadmap for converting rent payments to mortgage payments.

Paying rent isn’t exactly throwing money away, because the transaction results in having a place to live, but the faithful commitment of handing over a check every month doesn’t help the renter get ahead, says PHDA’s executive director and co-founder Greg Whitted.

“Most individuals are paying between $300 and $500 per month in rent. [That] could be a mortgage payment and actually building an equity base. There’s no return on rent at all,” he says. “In America, home ownership is the primary entrée into wealth building. It’s the simplest way for a low-income or moderate-income person to build an asset.”

The workshop, a collaboration between PHDA and Dollar Bank’s Community Development department, will address common barriers to home ownership: low or no credit and no savings for a down payment, says Whitted. “The key factor in getting financed for a mortgage is credit score.”

Attendees then have the option to enroll in Dollar Bank’s home ownership program, which provides credit counseling and financial guidance. The program lasts for a minimum of six months.

With the memory of the financial and housing crisis still fresh, Whitted says the point of the workshop is to show how home ownership can be approached responsibly and incrementally.

“It’s not an overnight process, but the workshop is about getting individuals in that mindset of making adjustments to be in a position to afford a home,” he says. “If I can’t afford it today, that doesn’t mean I can’t afford it a year from now.”

In Wilkinsburg, nearly 65 percent of residents rent their homes. Home ownership leads to improved and sustainable neighborhoods, says Whitted.

“One of our goals through this program is to balance the ratio of home owners to home renters,” he says. “Home ownership creates a sense of pride in the community. In addition, sustainability reduces crime and reduces blight. Those are two key areas that the Wilkinsburg community is dealing with and we’re proud to be a part of working toward solutions.”

The workshop will begin at 6 p.m. at the Landmarks Housing Resource Center, located at 744 Rebecca Avenue in Wilkinsburg. To register for the workshop, interested parties can call PHDA at 412-242-2700 or visit

Margaret J. Krauss is a writer, radio producer, and researcher. If not biking Pittsburgh's streets or swimming its rivers, she is likely geeking out about a really good story.