KENNETT SQUARE — A good life doesn’t come cheap.
A Landenberg multi-millionaire recently said that money can’t buy happiness, love or time.
At the same time, cash is essential to cover the costs of food, housing and even water.
For some individuals and families in the Greater Philadelphia area, rental costs have increased by 30% since January 2020.
“There’s no question the rent has gone up significantly,” said Dale Gravett, executive director of the Chester County Housing Authority, on Friday.
In the town of Coatesville, rent has increased 15% over the past two years, according to Gravett. This increase specifically occurred between October 2019 and September 2022 and the data was reported to the county through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Under the Emergency Housing Assistance Program, the Chester County Housing Authority has provided more than $3 million in housing assistance since March 2020. Four other organizations in the county are also distributing funds.
Four regional organizations along with the Chester County Housing Authority have distributed nearly $18 million for housing assistance since March 2020, Gravett said.
“There’s no question that rents are rising very rapidly in Chester County and that has made it more difficult for our housing agency to place clients, with limited incomes, into affordable housing,” Gravett said. “Such rent increases are happening all over the country.”
He said HUD has realized this and has now authorized public housing agencies to provide increased monetary assistance to families who have received vouchers and are looking for decent rental housing.
“Residents of Chester County can apply for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) by calling the 211 system,” Gravett said. “They can potentially receive up to 15 months’ rent arrears and also receive utility assistance.”
In Chester County, callers will be referred to one of the following agencies: Chester County Housing Authority; Association of Friends; Open Hearth, Inc; Human Services, Inc. and Oxford Neighborhood Services Center.
Inflation is rising
Nationally, inflation rose 7% in December 2021 from December 2020, regional economist Karl Kever of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday.
For the Greater Philadelphia area, the inflation rate in 2019 was 2%, he said. Inflation then increased by 4% in 2021. This represents the largest increase in inflation since 2004.
Across America last year, inflation rose by a national average of 4.7%.
“We haven’t seen jumps this big in a while,” Kever said.
One of the biggest challenges facing area residents is the gentrification of many low-income housing units, according to United Way of Southern Chester County executive director Carrie Freeman on Thursday.
“The loss of low-income housing has been a huge issue for us,” said Freeman, per Chester County Gentrification.
Freeman said there were local efforts, in Kennett Square, to ask builders, when building new townhouses, to set the rent at a lower price for a few of the apartments to help overcoming the high cost of rent for some working-class families in the area who often live paycheck to paycheck.
For some living paychecks, rising rents mean a tough decision for some: pay rent or buy food.
“It’s expensive to live here,” she said. Yet “renters pay more than mortgage holders”.
When gentrification occurs, long-time residents, who are renters, are forced to move elsewhere to find affordable housing, such as south to Cecil County, Maryland or rural communities near Oxford and west to Lancaster County.
“We need to provide acceptable housing for people of all income types,” Freeman said.
Chester County is home to 534,413 people as of July 2021, according to the US Census Bureau.
Currently, the typical rent in Wayne is $2,080 per month, according to a recent Stacker report, which is 28.1% above the typical Philadelphia Metro rent. The typical monthly rent in West Chester is $1,795, or 10.5% above the Philadelphia rate.
Across America, rental costs rose 21.6% between December 2020 and December 2021, according to Redfin, a real estate brokerage firm. During the same period, rental costs increased by 13.9% in the city of Philadelphia.
There are 79 individuals and families currently registered for emergency assistance services with Kennett Area Community Service, program director Amy Scheuren said Thursday. There are also 40 households on a waiting list.
Due to the rising cost of rental fees, “people are leaving the area, quite honestly,” Scheuren said.
She encouraged people who need help with rent and utility bills to call 211.
“There is funding,” Scheuren said of the emergency housing assistance program, which she says has allowed many people to stay in their homes.
Last year, Kennett Area Community Service served nearly 550 families and individuals with food and emergency rental assistance in Chester County.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price index for energy increased by 30% between December 2020 and December 2021. During this same period, the overall increase was 7 % for all items, while food cost increased by 6.3%.
According to the US Census Bureau, 5.2% of Chester County’s population lives in poverty. The median household income in 2019 for Chester County was $100,214.
In Chester County, 75% of the 203,159 homes are owner-occupied properties, according to the US Census Bureau. The median gross rent between 2015 and 2019 was $1,330.
The Washington Post recently reported that rental costs have risen 40% in some cities across America. Across the Delaware River in the Garden State, rent is up 34.5% in New Brunswick, home to Rutgers University.
Chester County rental units listed on BrightMLS rose 8.8%, with the average price rising from $1,971 per month in 2020 to $2,145 per month in 2021.
In Wayne, rental costs have increased 13.4% over the past five years, according to Stacker. The typical rental cost in Wayne averages $2,080 per month.
The average rent in West Chester is $1,758 for an average space of 887 square feet, according to RentCafe.
“Affordable homes in Chester County — whether rentals or purchased properties — can be hard to come by,” Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell said. “It is a county priority, and a priority for many of our urban communities, to generate a mix of housing options that can be accessible to everyone, including our nurses, police officers, manufacturing workers and services.”
Maxwell said there are more affordable housing developments than ever before, in places like West Chester, Kennett Square, Coatesville and Phoenixville.
“In the meantime, we are able to continue supporting individuals and families who need immediate assistance with rent and utilities.”
Maxwell said the Emergency Rental Assistance Program has helped more than 2,200 households in Chester County since its inception 23 months ago.
“Of the 193,234 occupied units in Chester County, it is estimated that there are 49,570 units occupied by tenants,” said Dolores Colligan, acting director of the Chester County Department of Community Development, citing the data. of 2019 from the US Census Bureau.
Chester County commissioners are continuing to invest in affordable housing developments, Colligan said Thursday.
Pinckney Hill Commons, developed by Church Housing Corp., will provide 51 affordable general occupancy rental units in the borough of West Chester, she said.
Red Clay Manor, developed by Delaware Valley Development Company, will provide 60 affordable rental units for seniors in the Kennett Square neighborhood, she added.
“Both developments,” Colligan said, “should be completed this spring.”