Philly housing costs rising faster for poor and middle-income residents than for the wealthy

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Housing costs in Philadelphia are rising faster for the poor and middle class than for the wealthy, new research indicates.

Costs for Philly households earning less than the national median income grew 8 percent between 2007 and 2018, according to a report by Apartment Life, a San Francisco-based real-estate company. They stayed flat for households earning more than that. The median household income was $61,400 in 2017.

“If you’re well-off already, you’re income seems to be growing faster. But if you’re not doing so well, your housing costs are outpacing your income and making it even harder to get ahead,” Igor Popov, the company’s chief economist, told WHYY.

In 2008, the Philadelphia area’s richest residents earned more than 12 times what the area’s poorest residents earned, the study found. By 2017, the earnings gap had expanded to 17 times.

Housing advocates worry the trend could push low-income residents into substandard housing or homelessness, or drive them out of town. Those who stay could be shifted into areas that already lack resources and services.

“We could end up pushing people into Camden, into Chester, you know, into Croyden — these little tiny areas that don’t have the social services, that don’t have the capacity. And again, we’re just kind of exporting the burden to cities that can’t afford to turn people away and afford to support them either,” Akira Rodriguez, a postdoctoral fellow in urban planning at the University of Pennsylvania, told WHYY.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who is seeking a second term this year, has proposed adding $80 million to the city’s Housing Trust Fund over the next six years, to support and build affordable housing in the city.

In March, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the City Council would consider five bills to address the city’s affordable-housing problem. Among the initiatives: A requirement that one-third of units built on public land sold for redevelopment be affordable, and a tax incentive for landlords who post affordable rents. Hearings on the bills are expected in the coming months.

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