September housing briefs | The Homepage

Pittsburgh and Hazelwood real estate data show home prices are skyrocketing

By Ed Nusser


For years, advocates, organizers, and affordable housing professionals have been saying rents and home prices are rising at rates never seen in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

In 2019, the median price for a single-family home in Pittsburgh was roughly $177,000. In 2021, the median price for the same home in Pittsburgh was approximately $222,000, a 25% increase in three years. Over that same time period, Pittsburgh’s area median income grew by $4,900 or 6%.


Some neighborhoods began to see rapid price escalation from 2012-2016, but over the last three years it has felt like home prices and rents are escalating faster than ever before and in more and more communities.


While the COVID-19 pandemic created a massive emotional, economic, and social burden on thousands of Pittsburghers, it did not affect everyone equally. In fact, where home prices are concerned, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically widened the chasm between those Pittsburghers with economic mobility and those locked out of the prosperity driving prices up.

Recent home sales data tell a detailed story, especially when narrowing the focus from the City of Pittsburgh to select neighborhoods. Home price increases are happening with increasing frequency in many more communities.


Annual sales data showed the median sale price for a home in Hazelwood increased to $109,900 in 2021. While this figure is still well below the city-wide median of $222,000, it reflects an 83% increase in the median Hazelwood home since 2019.


Another key statistic worth exploring to gauge affordability - or lack thereof - is the highest price that was paid for a home in a community in any year, sometimes referred to as a community’s “high water mark.” For Hazelwood, this figure was $95,000 in 2019. In 2021, it was $180,000.


While still well below the median prices across the City of Pittsburgh, Hazelwood’s real estate market is quickly gaining steam, making the preservation of existing and creation of new affordable homes all the more urgent.


Ed Nusser is executive director of City of Bridges Community Land Trust.


Rental housing prices are rising but wages can’t keep up

National Low-Income Housing Coalition report says low-wage workers are shut out of housing market

By Juliet Martinez

A horizontal graph. Blue bars show affordable rents for people earning different amounts, such as someone living on SSI (affordable rent = $252), one full time worker earning minimum wage ($377), someone earning an average unemployment benefit ($529), a family of four living at poverty level ($694). The yellow bars show the 2022 one-bedroom average fair market rent ($1,105) and 2022 average two-bedroom fair market rent ($1,342).
Graphic courtesy of National Low Income Housing Coalition

A minimum-wage worker in Pittsburgh needs to work 86 hours per week to afford a modest market-rate two-bedroom apartment, says a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.


The report titled “Out of Reach 2022: The high cost of housing” was released in late July. It analyzed rental housing costs in metropolitan areas and counties in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. It found that, on average, the hourly wage needed to be able to afford a two-bedroom rental home at fair market rate is $25.82, or annual earnings of almost $54,000. The hourly wage needed to comfortably afford a two-bedroom rental home is also known as the housing wage.


The housing wage for Pittsburgh is $18.87 per hour. In theory, someone working 40 hours per week at that pay could afford to pay $981 per month in rent and still have enough to pay for transportation, food, childcare and other expenses.


But Pennsylvania’s minimum wage matches the federal minimum at $7.25 per hour. For low-wage workers across the country, that means working many more hours in order to make ends meet. Only Puerto Rico has a housing wage in the single digits at $9.66 per hour.

The report says households at 30% of the area median income (AMI) can afford $716. Even that is close to twice what is considered affordable for a minimum wage worker who works 40 hours a week.


Affordability in housing is means that one’s rent or mortgage payment and utilities costing no more than a third of household income. Someone who works full time (40 hours per week) at minimum wage ($7.25) will bring home $1,160 per month before taxes. One third of that is $348.


Pennsylvania Department of Labor data from 2021 says only 2% of hourly workers – and 1.1% of all workers – earn minimum wage or less. Even so, the same labor data says the median wage in 2021 was $17, which means half of Pennsylvanians earn less than the state’s housing wage.


The minimum wage in Pennsylvania has not been raised in 13 years.


Juliet Martinez is the managing editor of The Homepage.


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