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This chapter presents information on housing problems among Pennsylvania’s lower-income renter households and on the extent to which these households faced shortages in affordable and available units at mid-decade. Findings are presented at both the state and sub-state levels.
Because CHAS tabulations are not available for years after 2000, we developed equivalent data from the American Community Survey (ACS). To double the ACS sample size, we used data for both 2005 and 2006. As Appendix E details, all the ACS indicators computed for 2005-06 should be comparable to their 2000 CHAS equivalents except for estimates of the incidence of cost burden. We adopted an approach developed by the NLIHC44 because we judge that it provides more accurate and complete counts of renters with housing cost burdens in 2005-06 than the procedures used for past CHAS tabulations.45
The smaller ACS sample size also constrains the geographic units we can study, because ACS micro-data are not always available at the county level. Therefore, after presenting a summary for the state, the chapter discusses housing conditions for the six relatively large regions used by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). It then examines conditions for aggregations of public use microdata areas (PUMAs) that provide as much county-level detail as possible from the ACS micro-data for 2005 and 2006.46
The 2005-06 ACS data show that shortages of affordable rental housing worsened in the first half of the previous decade, particularly for ELI renters (Table 15). By mid-decade, there were 88,000 fewer affordable units than ELI renters. Expressed as a ratio, the number of affordable units per 100 ELI renter households was only 77 in 2005-06 (or roughly three units for every four renters), whereas in 2000, the ratio of 96 meant that the number of units had almost equaled the number of renters.
The absolute shortage of units affordable and available to ELI renters also worsened by mid-decade, reaching 220,000. These data reflect only 43 affordable and available units per 100 ELI renter households, down from 49 in 2000.
Within the broader income range of 0-50 percent of AMI, the number of affordable and available units per hundred renters dropped slightly (from 87 to 84) and the absolute deficit rose to almost 100,000. But the surplus of units affordable and available to 0-80 percent of AMI apparently increased more than renters, as the ratio rose to 110.
Cost burden pressures were also higher at mid-decade than in 2000. The differences appear most dramatic for ELI renter households, which experienced increases in cost burden and severe cost burden of 15 and 16 percentage points, respectively (Table 16). As Appendix E details, some of this apparent rise undoubtedly reflects our somewhat different methodology in 2005-06. Because the increases in cost burden are consistent with the increasing shortages of affordable housing, however, we conclude that they are real rather than merely an artifact of our different procedure.47
The increases in both relative and absolute shortages of affordable housing and the higher incidence of cost burdens occurred despite a modest rise in rental vacancy rates between 2000 and 2005-06, which would tend to ease the shortage, all other things being equal. As the next sections discuss, both changes are likely due in part to more ELI renters competing for a relatively fixed stock of rental housing units.48 Statewide, the shares of ELI and VLI renter households increased; the percentage of ELI households rose by 4 percentage points compared to 2000 (Table 17).