Like many cities, Allentown, Pa., has experienced a slow but seismic shift in its housing market in recent decades. New apartment complexes keep popping up while developers convert vacant industrial facilities into rental housing. Meanwhile, construction of single-family homes has ground to a near halt. Since 2000, the city’s renter population has grown by 46 percent, while the number of residents in owner-occupied units has declined 12 percent.
The city, now majority-renter, epitomizes what’s occurred elsewhere as a greater proportion of Americans opt to forgo — or at least delay — homeownership. This carries numerous ramifications for localities, from renters’ different demands for services to the way they interact with government. While small upticks in renting rarely provoke major consequences, long-term shifts can reshape cities in a number of ways.