This chapter focuses on two closely related topics: the housing problems of Pennsylvania’s lower-income renters and the availability of rental units affordable to this group in 2000. We examine these topics for the state as a whole and for counties within the state. We also compare conditions in Pennsylvania with those in the nation and in neighboring states.
All of the statistics provided in this chapter are computed from comprehensive housing affordable strategies (CHAS) data, which are special tabulations of 2000 census data funded by HUD that classified renter and owner households and their housing problems by income, and housing units and their characteristics by affordability.25 We use a methodology similar to that of several national studies described in Appendix B, most notably the 2004 study by the NLIHC, Losing Ground in the Best of Times: Low Income Renters in the 1990s.26 The methodology itself is described in Appendix C.
The availability of CHAS data for 1990 and 2000 made it possible to examine housing conditions faced by low-income renters in both 1990 and 2000. As context for the 2000 findings presented in this chapter, CHAS data show that housing conditions improved somewhat from 1990 to 2000 in Pennsylvania.27 The income distribution of lower-income renter households and vacancy rates both remained relatively constant throughout that decade, but cost burden pressures eased, especially for very low-income (VLI) renters. Similarly, shortages of affordable rental housing eased across the state. Yet despite these improvements, the incidence of housing problems among extremely low-income (ELI) renters remained high in 2000, as the statistics presented in this chapter show.
There are several ways to define income groups in general and low income in particular.28 This study distinguishes renters in three lower-income ranges:
|Renter Household Group||HUD-Adjusted Area Median Family Income (HAMFI) Range29|
|Extremely Low Income (ELI)||Less than or equal to 30% of HAMFI|
|Very Low Income (VLI)||Between 30.1% and 50.0% of HAMFI|
|Low Income (LI)||Between 50.1% and 80.0% of HAMFI|
The definitions from the table above can be put in context with a couple of simple examples. Data from the 2000 census indicate that in 1999 Pike County had the highest median family income for Pennsylvania counties. The HAMFI thresholds for a four-person household in that county in 1999 were $17,600 for ELI renter households, $29,350 for VLI renter households, and $46,950 for LI renter households. By contrast, in Forest County, which had the lowest median family income in Pennsylvania in 1999, the HAMFI thresholds were $12,500 for ELI renter households, $20,850 for VLI renter households, and $33,350 for LI renter households.30
In the remainder of this study, we use the abbreviation AMI to refer to HUD-adjusted area median family income, or HAMFI, unless otherwise noted. In addition, we use the term lower income to include ELI, VLI, and LI renter households.