(The Center Square) – As rents and housing prices have risen across different parts of Pennsylvania, its rural areas face different troubles in housing. Bad credit, high debt, and no collateral have meant that urban residents had a 24% better chance of getting a loan approval than rural residents.
A report from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania surveyed housing quality outside cities in the commonwealth and noted what lawmakers could do to improve it. Not all rural areas face the same problems, however. When looking at home improvement loan denials, for example, a few counties jumped out.
“Geographically, the research team identified clusters of the highest denial rates in northeastern Pennsylvania (Pike, Monroe, and Carbon counties), outside of Erie (parts of Warren and Crawford counties), parts of Potter and Clinton counties in north central Pennsylvania, and parts of Somerset and Bedford counties in the south,” the report noted.
Comparing housing quality statewide, “housing quality in rural areas is lower than it is in urban areas,” mainly due to the housing stock outside cities being older, as well as a higher reliance on coal for heating and fewer amenities.
Pennsylvania housing prices have increased in recent years due to a lack of housing in high-demand areas such as around Philadelphia and Harrisburg, as The Center Square previously reported. Experts have also warned of the need for “record-level building” in northeast Pennsylvania.
In rural Pennsylvania, more of the focus has been on blighted properties and providing more funding to demolish hazardous buildings. A law passed in July gives local governments more power to grant tax incentives to build housing or fix up blighted properties, as The Center Square previously reported.
Those incentives could be critical in fixing issues related to blight simply because code enforcement is weaker in rural areas of the commonwealth.
“Given that the majority of rural municipalities do not have property maintenance codes in place, local supervisors or officers are faced with challenges when violations occur or blight appears,” the report noted.
Some counties have limited funds to pay property inspectors, and enforcing maintenance requirements can be costly and a low priority.
For rural housing issues, one key is that housing quality follows from economic growth.
“Programs or policies that offer opportunities for high quality education and foster economic development, especially development that can offer higher wages, will have a positive impact on housing quality,” the report noted.
As rural Pennsylvania has struggled to grow its population and economy, housing quality may suffer until more parts of the commonwealth can find an economic foothold.