With a population of more than 830,000 people, Montgomery County is the third-largest county in Pennsylvania, and has a population greater than four US states. Because of that, one of the areas Zellers focused on was establishing best practices and finding national trends.
“It’s important, I think, for us to measure up to those [practices] and exceed and aim to be the benchmark nationally,” Zellers said.
Homes For All identified several national trends: The housing crisis is worsening, housing is a social determinant of health, and for some, the term “affordable housing” carries a stigma.
From a data standpoint, the report points out several key facts that demonstrate the need for affordable housing in the county.
“Between 2012 and 2017, the inflation rate was 4.3%. In comparison, the county’s median housing sales price increased by 11.8%, and the median gross rent climbed 10.6% in the same period,” according to the Homes For All report.
Kayleigh Silver is the manager of the Your Way Home program with the Montgomery County Office of Housing and Community Development. She says there are several troubling findings within the report.
“What really stood out to me … was the data showing that more than about half of renters in Montgomery County are paying more than 30% of their monthly income towards their rent,” Silver said.
The federal government considers housing affordable if a resident doesn’t have to spend more than 30% of their income on it.
“People are one financial crisis, or one paycheck, away from having to choose [whether] to pay for food or basic necessities or their housing … This is becoming a bigger burden and an increasing problem for people, especially at the lower income bracket in our county,” Silver said.
Through her own work in homeless services, she says that these obstacles disproportionately burden people of color, but particularly Black mothers and their children.