Pennsylvania is one of the leading states when it comes to rent unaffordability, with many people in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and elsewhere sacrificing at least half their monthly incomes for rent and utilities. A new analysis from the housing advocates running the Make Room campaign (the same people who’ve been bringing popular musicians to the homes of struggling renters to highlight their cause) reveals that 28.8 percent of renters in Pennsylvania’s 10 largest metros are severely burdened by the cost of rent.
Last week, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law an expansion of the state’s housing trust fund that had bipartisan support in the capital. Previously, some revenue from natural gas drilling was set aside for the fund to fight blight and support affordable housing — in the counties where companies are drilling. Wolf’s signature brings the program to all counties and adds another revenue stream, from the realty transfer tax.
“Pennsylvania has provided an excellent example of how state officials can put politics aside and take bipartisan action to address rental affordability,” said Angela Boyd, managing director of the Make Room campaign. “However, more can and should be done. Local and national leaders must rebalance resources and fully fund programs at the federal and state level in order to protect the economic future of struggling renters.”
Make Room’s report also concluded that the most burdened by high rents in Pennsylvania are younger renters, though the strain is spread across all age groups. Of renters under the age of 35 in Pennsylvania’s largest metro areas, 34.7 percent pay over half of their income toward rent and utilities. Make Room points out this often leads to renters choosing between paying rent or paying for groceries, medicine, childcare and other necessities, citing data from the 2013 Census.
“The Make Room data shows the importance of ensuring that all people have access to stable homes and opportunities to move up the economic ladder,” said Liz Hersh, executive director the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. “We call upon our leaders at the federal level to display the kind of bipartisanship we saw in Pennsylvania to protect vital programs such as the HOME Investment Partnerships Programs and the National Housing Trust Fund.”
Here’s how Make Room breaks down the rental picture for those 10 Pennsylvania metros.
Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.