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Report: Philly’s low-income renters struggle to afford bottom-tier apartments

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They spend more than half of their paycheck on monthly rent

The facade of a building in Philadelphia. There are multiple windows with small balconies.
For Philly’s low-income renters, many struggle to afford bottom-tier apartments.
via Flickr/Alan Strakey

Philly, historically considered one of the more affordable rental markets in the U.S., has become increasingly more unaffordable—especially for low-income renters.

In 2016, Philly’s low-income renters spent 57.3 percent of their income on apartments that are already considered low-end, according to recent research conducted by the real estate website Zillow.

That’s an increase of 8.6 percent from just three years ago, when low-income renters spent 48.3 percent of their income on the bottom third of rentals.

Traditionally, 30 percent of income has been considered the reasonable amount of money to spend on rent. So with a median of 57.3 percent, a significant chunk of Philly renters are spending way too much of their paycheck on bottom-tier rentals.

Meanwhile, Philly’s middle-income and high-income renters are hardly as cost-burdened as low-income renters, spending just 22.1 percent and 13.2 percent of their salaries on rent, respectively.

This lack of affordable housing in Philadelphia (and all major U.S. metros) is a growing problem. A separate report published earlier this year by the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and the National Apartment Association (NAA) found that Philly needs to build more than 38,000 apartments by 2030 to meet its rising demand, and they need to be made available at all price points.

There is a mixed-income legislation in the works in City Council that would require developers to build one unit of affordable housing for every nine market-rate housing units. But developers have since spoken out against the proposed legislation. The bill is being fine-tuned before it goes to vote in the fall.