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Study Assesses Needs of Lower-Income Renters

For immediate release
Contact: Katherine Dibling, E-mail senior media representative, (215) 574-4119

Philadelphia, Pa. - Out of all renters in Pennsylvania, those with the lowest incomes had the greatest housing needs, according to Affordability and Availability of Rental Housing in Pennsylvania, a study released today by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's Community Affairs Department.

The study assesses the rental housing needs of Pennsylvania's lower-income renters in 2000 and in 2005-2006. It finds that the total shortage of rental housing units that were affordable and available to the lowest income renters statewide increased significantly between these years. The study also reports that two out of three of these renters had severe cost burdens: more than 50 percent of their incomes went to rent and utilities at mid-decade.

The study compares how rental housing needs vary across Pennsylvania. As measured per 100 renter households, the areas in the state that had the greatest concentrations of lowest income renters facing shortages and severe cost burdens were the Northeast section bordering New Jersey (where Monroe County faced a particularly great challenge), Centre County (home to Pennsylvania State University), and the suburban counties of Philadelphia.

The two authors of the study, Erin Mierzwa, community development specialist in the Bank's Community Affairs Department, and Kathryn P. Nelson, Ph.D., an affordable housing consultant, presented the findings this morning to several members of the Pennsylvania State Assembly at a legislative briefing and later in the day at "Homes Within Reach," a Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania conference, in Harrisburg.

"We hope that state and local policymakers can use the data provided in this study to help develop local rental housing strategies," said Dede Myers, vice president and Community Affairs officer.

The Community Affairs Department supports the Federal Reserve System's economic growth objectives by promoting community development in low- and moderate-income communities and fair and impartial access to credit in underserved markets. The department works closely with financial institutions, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies on public-private partnerships that result in increased affordable housing and community and economic development. The department helps financial institutions to understand their responsibilities under the federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia helps formulate and implement monetary policy, supervises banks and bank holding companies, and provides financial services to depository institutions and the federal government. One of the 12 regional Reserve Banks that, together with the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., make up the Federal Reserve System, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank serves eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware.

Additional Details and Facts

The study uses two primary data sources to assess the housing needs of Pennsylvania's lower-income renter households: special tabulations from the 2000 census, called Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) data, and similar tabulations from the 2005 and the 2006 American Community Survey (ACS).

The study looks at renters in three lower-income ranges:

  • Extremely low-income (ELI) renters — Renters with incomes less than or equal to 30 percent of HUD-adjusted area median family income (HAMFI). These are the lowest income renters.
  • Very low-income (VLI) renters — Renters with incomes between 30.1 percent and 50 percent of HAMFI.
  • Low-income (LI) renters — Renters with incomes between 50.1 percent and 80 percent of HAMFI.

Key findings of the study are presented at state and local levels. In addition, the study compares housing conditions and shortages in Pennsylvania to those in neighboring states and in the nation. A summary of general housing characteristics at the national, state, and local levels is also included.

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