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HARRISBURG, PA-In a study of key housing indicators among five states, conducted by the Housing Alliance here, Pennsylvania is found to be at a comparative disadvantage with New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland and Ohio. Titled, “The State of Pennsylvania’s Housing: A Comparative Analysis of Need, Policy and Funding,” it reveals that Pennsylvania lags behind the others on several important fronts, including rental housing.

This state has the same amount of rental housing as it did in 1940. Between 1990 and 2000, multifamily housing has slipped from representing 26% to just 21% of all housing stock in the state.

While Pennsylvania rents are lower than in the peer states, it has more renters who pay more than 50% of their income for housing. That is 17% more than Massachusetts, which has the highest rents in the nation, and Maryland, which has the fastest rising rents in the US.

Incomes here have not kept pace with rental housing costs. In 2000, 44% of renters here and nearly one third of the workforce could not afford a two-bedroom unit without facing burdensome costs. Minimum wage earners at $5.15 per hour, or $10,712 a year, must pay 81% of their income to rent a median-priced apartment.

Fewer than one in three of the households here that are qualified for housing assistance actually obtain such assistance from the state. In all, 32,000 Pennsylvania households are on waitlists for housing assistance, and two percent of subsidized units were lost over the past five years.

Furthermore, affordable multifamily construction that is cost-effective and suitable for workforce housing, “lags perilously,” according to the analysis. That which is being built is generally unaffordable and inaccessible to low- and moderate-income workers.

Liz Hersh, executive director of the Alliance, says the report “serves as a wake-up call to our state leadership.”

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