Carl Redwood Jr., long known for his work as a community organizer, social worker, socialist and social justice advocate in Pittsburgh, has announced his candidacy to represent Allegheny County Council’s District 10. He’ll run as an independent against incumbent Democrat DeWitt Walton in the fall.

Walton is a longtime labor activist and employee of the United Steelworkers, winning his first election to County Council in 2015. He faced two challengers in May’s Democratic primary, Carlos Thomas and Eric Smith, and won with a plurality of 38% of the vote.

Redwood’s key concern is affordable housing — or the lack of it, especially in working-class and poor neighborhoods where development sharply drives up property values and rents. Residents can’t afford these sharp increases, so they’re forced to move out; wealthier people move in, gentrifying those neighborhoods. The process has devastated Black communities in the city.

Many such places fall within District 10, which includes the city neighborhoods of the Hill District, Oakland, Bloomfield, Garfield, East Liberty and Homewood, as well as the boroughs of Wilkinsburg, Braddock Hills, Forest Hills and Edgewood.

At the core of neighborhood gentrification, Redwood said, is “flipping” — the strategy of buying older properties, making some improvements and then selling them for much higher than the purchase price.

“The Black neighborhoods in this region that were redlined in the 1940s and 50s … they are now the ‘hot’ neighborhoods that are being flipped by developers and others,” Redwood said.  “Neighborhoods like mine, the Hill District, are prime areas for flippers. I get postcards every day — ‘We want to buy your house,’ and ‘We buy houses.’”

Redwood believes no one should have to pay more than 30% of their income for housing. Federal legislation to mandate such a thing is unlikely, he said, but there are steps that local governments can take.

One solution, Redwood said, is rent control, “so a landlord can’t just double rents. Landlords should be able to increase rents incrementally but not raise them in a way that forces people out of homes.”

Another solution Redwood sees is utilizing community land trusts, nonprofit organizations that own land on behalf of a community with the goal of keeping housing affordable and development sustainable.

“Ideally, it’s even better to set up a community land trust where the land is commonly owned, with cooperative housing on top,” Redwood said. “The house is then owned by the co-op and not an individual. That’s the future we need to make housing more affordable for first-time home buyers and renters, so 10 years from now the cost of living won’t double.”

Belmar Gardens in the city’s Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar neighborhood is an example of a successful housing cooperative, he said. Built in the early 1950s, Belmar Gardens was the nation’s first housing cooperative built with a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

The drop-off in affordable housing has caused a significant shift in the county’s Black population, Redwood noted. For example, he said, in 1980 there were 100,000 Black residents in the city of Pittsburgh, and 80,000 Black residents in smaller municipalities surrounding the city and still in Allegheny County. Now, the number of Black Pittsburghers stands at 67,000 while the population living outside the city but in the county has risen to 114,000.

“The main reason people have been moving is the rents are too damn high in the city,” he said. “You can find cheaper rents in some of the smaller municipalities.”

Redwood would also like to see a shift in how the region deals with the unhoused. Shelters are needed now, he said, but finding housing for these people should be a priority and other services should then build on that.

“We need a policy that moves us to ‘housing first,’” he said.

Another Redwood suggestion is the establishment of community assemblies — bodies composed of progressive residents who’d meet regularly to deal with issues and problems that arise in neighborhoods. It would look something like a traditional ward system, except those sitting on community assemblies would be independent and more progressive than the local Democratic party.

“We need to move to make the impossible possible,” Redwood said. “Seventy years ago we lived in Jim Crow and people thought the end of segregation was not possible. If we would have gone along with that, nothing would have changed. But people got together and organized to make what was not possible possible. That’s important — for the power of the people to make change.”

Born in 1953, Redwood has spent most of his life in the Hill District. He’s worked as an organizer with a number of organizations, including the Pittsburgh chapter of the African Liberation Support Committee, the Black Action Society at the University of Pittsburgh, and the Homestead Unemployed Center / Rainbow Kitchen, and he served as campaign coordinator for the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign.

Steve is a photojournalist and writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he is currently on strike and working as a Union Progress co-editor. Reach him at

Steve Mellon

Steve is a photojournalist and writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he is currently on strike and working as a Union Progress co-editor. Reach him at