As area median income rises, what is the impact for residents seeking affordable housing?

People walk along Bedford Avenue near the Bedford Hill Apartments in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

How do rising incomes in Allegheny County impact affordable housing?

It’s not exactly clear unless you know that benchmarks for affordable housing rents and eligibility are based not on local residents’ needs, but on the overall wealth of the region.

Known as area median income [AMI], the benchmark is revised each year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. AMI is the midpoint of all the incomes in the region — if all of the household incomes in the county are listed from least to greatest, the AMI would be the value in the middle of that list.

For 2019, AMI in Allegheny County is $79,900. That marks a roughly 5% increase from last year’s AMI of $76,000, and a 23% increase from 2012’s AMI of $64,900.

When AMI increases, the benchmark incomes for affordable housing eligibility also rise and, therefore, the rent for subsidized housing increases.

This is how it plays out: In 2012, a family of four in subsidized affordable housing with an income at 50% of AMI ($32,450) would pay no more than $731 per month in rent for a two-bedroom apartment, according to numbers published by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. In 2019, the same family could pay up to $900 per month.

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As area median income rises, what is the impact for residents seeking affordable housing?

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