PRESS RELEASE- June 18, 2019

June 18, 2019

Levana Layendecker
David Scholnick


The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee has an opportunity to address the problem tomorrow as it considers SB31, the PHARE Act

In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Pennsylvania, full-time workers need to earn $19.35 per hour. This is Pennsylvania’s 2019 Housing Wage, calculated in a national report released today. One bill to address the disparity could advance this Wednesday, June 19, when the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee meets at 9:30 AM in Room 461 Main Capitol. The report, Out of Reach, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a research and advocacy organization dedicated solely to achieving affordable and decent homes for the lowest income people, and the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. 

“Pennsylvania has a responsibility to its citizens and the businesses for which they work to help solve the affordable housing crisis,” said Housing Alliance Executive Director Phyllis Chamberlain. “This report shows just how difficult it is for average working Pennsylvanians to afford safe, secure homes for their families. Investments we make in affordable housing now through legislation such as SB31 and SB30 will leverage private dollars, create jobs, and stimulate our economy for years to come.”

Low wages and a severe shortage of affordable and available rental homes continue to leave far too many people struggling to keep roofs over their heads. In no state, even those where the minimum wage is set above the federal standard, can a minimum wage renter working a 40-hour work week afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit at the average fair market rent. Working at the minimum wage of $7.25 in Pennsylvania, a wage earner must have 2.2 full-time jobs or work 86 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment. A worker who needs separate bedrooms for her children must have 2.7 full-time jobs or work 107 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

The typical renter in Pennsylvania earns $15.31 an hour, which is $4.04 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home, and is not enough to afford a one-bedroom rental home.

On Wednesday, the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee will consider SB31, the PHARE Act, which would increase the commonwealth’s investment in affordable housing. The bill would remove a cap on the portion of the Realty Transfer Tax that funds PHARE, the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund, also known as the state housing trust fund. If the cap were lifted, it would make an estimated $9.1 million more available this year to create, rehab, and support local housing, and to expand supportive services, homeownership counseling, home purchase, and blight remediation programs.

The median-wage full-time worker in eight of the nation’s ten largest occupations does not earn enough to afford a modest one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent. People we rely on—retail salespersons, fast food workers, personal care aides, and home health aides—can’t afford to pay their rent without spending more than 30% of their income. Nationally, these jobs are projected to experience the greatest growth over the next decade, but they pay less than the hourly wage necessary to afford a modest one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent.

“In 99% of counties in the US, a full-time minimum-wage worker cannot afford a one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Our rental housing needs have worsened considerably over the past 30 years. Housing is out of reach for millions of low-wage workers. But members of Congress are starting to take note. Big, robust housing bills have been introduced by key policymakers. The topic of affordable housing is becoming increasingly prevalent on the 2020 presidential campaign trails. We now have a tremendous opportunity to implement bold federal housing policy solutions that will fund affordable housing programs at the scale necessary.”

The Out of Reach 2019 report is available at:

For more information from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, visit:

For more information about PHARE and the PHARE Act, see below.

PHARE Real Results

About The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania
The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania is a statewide coalition working to provide leadership and a common voice for policies, practices and resources to ensure that all Pennsylvanians, especially those with low incomes, have access to safe, decent and affordable homes. To learn more, please visit