Housing Increasingly 'Out Of Reach'

Jun 12, 2017

Nowhere in the country can someone work 40 hours a week at a minimum-wage job and afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to a study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

On average, a Pennsylvanian earning minimum wage would have to work 83 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom rental.

There are a lot of misconceptions about low-income earners. Primarily, that they’re not working hard enough, said Phyllis Chamberlain, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania.

“When really, there really is no good choice, because the units aren’t available to them at a level that they can afford.”

Wages haven’t kept pace with the cost of living, which Chamberlain said points to the need to invest in job training to help people close the gap. But she said housing is foundational.

“If people don’t first have a safe and decent and affordable home of their own, it’s really challenging to be able to think about now how do they get into a job training program, or how do they improve their education," she said. 

The market isn’t creating enough safe, decent, affordable apartments, said Chamberlain, and when that’s the case, it needs to be stimulated.

Numerous groups in Pennsylvania provide just the little bit of help that people need to attain housing, said Chamberlain. But most municipalities rely on federally funded programs to do so: housing choice vouchers, the HOME program, and community development block grants.

President Trump has proposed cutting many of those programs. Those cuts would devastate housing in Pennsylvania, said Chamberlain. And cost taxpayers more as people rely more on emergency services.