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PHILADELPHIA-Market-rate rental housing throughout Pennsylvania is beyond the financial reach of a person earning the pending minimum wage of $7.15 an hour, according to a report jointly issued by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania and the Washington, DC-based National Low Income Housing Coalition. It coincides with a Pennsylvania voter survey, commissioned by the state housing alliance, which shows that concern about housing affordability ranks second only to concerns about affordable healthcare.

“Out of Reach 2006″ calculates a “housing wage,” based on fair market rents throughout the state and the generally accepted affordability standard of devoting 30% of income to housing costs. It says a housing wage of $14.57 an hour, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year is required to meet the rent and utilities on “a modest two-bedroom apartment in the [state's] private housing market.” The housing wage needed for “the average one-bedroom apartment” in the state is $12.12 an hour, according to the report.

The typical renter in the state earns $11.57 an hour, according to the study, which estimates that 49% of Pennsylvania renters do not meet that threshold. “Pennsylvania has a steak-and-caviar housing market,” says Liz Hersh, executive director of the Alliance, which has offices here and in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. “There are not many choices for the person living on a burger-and-fries budget.”

Hersh calls for more multifamily starts and tax credits and subsidies to “close the gap between what it costs to operate and apartment and what residents can pay. We can provide incentives to employers who provide housing assistance as a benefit and create incentives for the development and rehabilitation of home near job centers, with an eye to what that work force can actually afford,” she says.

Meanwhile, the “Pennsylvanians’ Attitudes on Home Affordability” survey, conducted for the alliance by Washington, DC-based Peter D. Hart Research Associates, concludes that voters “see the lack of affordable homes as a big problem for those making $20,000 to $40,000″ a year. More than a third, 38% of the voters surveyed, cited this a “very big” or “fairly big problem where I live.” Slightly more, 44%, cited “lack of affordable healthcare options for low/moderate-income families” as a very big or fairly big problem.

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