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Affordable Housing Is Largely ‘Out Of Reach’ For Low-Income Pennsylvanians

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Those earning minimum wage in Pennsylvania would have to work more than 80 hours a week to afford a single-bedroom apartment using only 30% of their income.

On today’s program: A recently released report found housing is unaffordable for most Americans working minimum-wage jobs; with municipalities across the state worried about their local economies post-pandemic, Pitt’s Institute of Politics analyzed these challenges and proposed solutions in their latest report; and we learn if beetles can walk backwards.

Study finds affordable housing options limited for low income Pennsylvanians
(0:00 - 9:06)

Full-time workers who earn the state or federal minimum wage cannot afford to rent a two-bedroom home anywhere in the country without becoming cost-burdened, according to a new study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Cost-burdened renters are those who spend more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities.

The average minimum wage worker, earning $7.25 an hour, would have to work 97 hours to afford a two-bedroom apartment and 79 hours to afford a one-bedroom.

"Someone working full-time would need to earn $20.40 an hour in order to be able to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment in their area. You'd need to earn $24.90 an hour to afford a two-bedroom," says Dan Threet, the study's lead research analyst.

Compared to the rest of the country, the study found that Pittsburgh is more affordable.

"The one-bedroom housing wage in the Pittsburgh Metro is $14.85 an hour, and the two-bedroom housing wage is $18.08 an hour," says Threet. "But I think the thing to bear in mind is that it's not just the sticker shock of the sheer cost of rent, but the shortfall between wages and rent that matters."

New report finds municipalities not as hard hit by pandemic as anticipated
(9:12 - 17:13)

The City of Pittsburgh plans to use half of the $335 million in federal recovery assistance to offset lost revenues and avoid laying off hundreds of city workers.

Early in the pandemic, David Miller, then director of the Center for Metropolitan Studies, told the Confluence his projections indicated that 20% of the more than 500 municipal governments in Southwestern Pennsylvania might not have sufficient revenues by the end of 2021 to continue operations.

“Those initial projections turned out to be a little more extreme than what ended up resulting,” says Aaron Lauer, a senior policy analyst with the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics (IOP). He says 70% of municipalities only saw a 5% change in their earned income tax revenues from 2019 t0 2020, but some were impacted more severely than others.

Researchers at the IOP’s Fiscal Policy and Governance Committee surveyed municipalities in ten counties across Southwestern Pennsylvania about what they’ve lost, and have published their findings.

“At this time, projections are looking at about $300 billion lost nationally for state and local governments, and there’s also a potential ripple effect coming out of some economic trends that occurred during the pandemic,” says Lauer.

The Committee came up with four sets of recommendations to help municipalities become more resilient. The suggestions include increasing flexibility in revenues, creating more financial transparency, and developing opportunities for cooperation across municipalities and government entities.

Can beetles walk backwards?
(17:17 - 22:30)

The Confluence has been asking families for questions, those very good questions that a kiddo in your life might have that leaves you scratching your head.

As part of 90.5 WESA’s Good Question, Kid! Series, Ainsley Seago, the associate curator of invertebrate zoology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, explains how some beetles walk backwards, but only under certain circumstances.

If a kid in your life has a good question, you can fill out our form or send it to

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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