Nearly eighty people gathered today at a regional forum held by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania (HAP) to discuss issues involving the severe housing crisis in the state. Consumers, developers, real estate professionals, community activists and politicians spoke about the state’s problematic housing market and shared ideas and initiatives that might help fix the situation.
Executive Director of HAP, Liz Hersh, shared statistics about Pennsylvania’s housing market. She says in Allegheny County, hard working families, seniors, and people with disabilities are struggling to find and maintain affordable homes.
• 42% of families who rent are living on $23,850 or less.
• 71% - 80% of families living at or below 30% of Area Median Income (AMI) face severe cost burdens.
• There are only 31-40 units of affordable housing for every 100 of these working families.
• The housing wage is $14.04 per hour—the wage needed to afford the rent of a 2-bedroom apartment. The minimum wage is $7.25.
• 13% of all renters are 75 or older, while 26% are 25-34 years old.
• 32% of homes were built prior to 1940, and most owners struggle to keep them in good conditions.
Hersh says Allegheny County needs 21,545 more rental units that are both affordable and available to the lowest income renters. That number is approximately ten times larger than any other county’s in southwest Pennsylvania. She says the state needs 220,000 more rental units.
The housing crisis is affecting homeowners, low income people, children, senior citizens, the economy and the government. According to Hersh, more than 43,000 children are homeless in Pennsylvania, and 1/3 of these children have psychiatric disorders by the age of 8.
HAP board member Ellen Kight says for these reasons Pennsylvanians must join initiatives to reduce the housing shortage. She says ultimately, HAP seeks to “influence public policy in ways that improve the health and balance of our housing market so that it really meets the needs of local residents.”