There is real evidence from the real estate market analysis that Philadelphia’s housing costs are rising faster for the working class with lower incomes, as opposed to the wealthier sector, which has access to increasingly stable rents.
According to research by Apartment Life, a San Francisco-based real estate company, revealed that as the poorest inhabitants of the Philadelphia region spend more to keep a roof over their heads, the area’s wealthiest dwellers are spending less.
The research was made by Philadelphia journalist Aaron Moselle, a general assignment reporter for WHYY, who writes stories for the web and the radio. Her professional work focuses on homelessness, poverty and income inequality.
Concerning the growth of the income value, Igor Popov, chief economist of Apartment Life, pointed out that “if you´re well-off already well, your income seems to be growing faster. But if you’re not doing so well, housing costs are outpacing your income and making it even harder to get ahead”.
This reality can be seen graphically if you look at the bars between 2007 and 2018. During this period, the cost of housing for residents in the region who earn less than the average national income grew by 8%. By contrast, the cost did not rise at all for dwellers earning above average, according to company census data. The average household income in the metropolitan region was US$61,400 in 2017.
According to the reporter, located at @ awmoselle, Philadelphia and other major cities have seen an influx of wealthier residents. This fact has increased the demand for higher rental housing, and flooded the market with elegant, bright multi-family properties.
“With less competition for these units, prices dropped,” Popov said. At the same time, most major cities continue to face a shortage of affordable housing options for lower-wage residents.
In addition, people who struggle to make ends meet do not spend much less on rent than people who get larger checks, even though they earn much less.
“Housing costs just don’t vary that much,” Popov said. “For all intents and purposes, you’re paying the same amount in housing if you’re in the bottom quartile as if you were in the very middle of the distribution.”
This is not a new trend. The difference is that it is worsening as income inequality – the gap between rich and poor – widens.
According to the study, in 2008, the richest residents of the metropolitan area earned more than 12 times what the poorest inhabitants of the area earned. In 2017, those wealthy dwellers earned 17 times more than the poorest residents.
Housing advocates say it is a dangerous dynamic that could push low-income residents into homelessness or out of town – and make places like Philadelphia much less diverse than they are now.
Translated by José Espinoza