The emerging natural gas industry is Northcentral Pennsylvania is bringing jobs and revenue to the area but it is also having an impact on many related issues, including the housing. The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, chaired by Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) held a public hearing today in Towanda to hear how communities are dealing with the increased demand for housing and what can be done to ensure that affordable housing is available for local residents.
Among those who testified at the hearing were representatives of the Local Housing Options Team, Area Agency on Aging, Bradford County Sanitation, Chesapeake Energy, Borough of Canton, local realtors and Bradford County Landlords’ Association.
“Marcellus Shale has been a great asset for the Commonwealth and will bring growth, additional tax revenue and economic development to this area,” Yaw said. “But as companies locate here, that growth is creating a huge demand for housing that we need to address, particularly in the area of rental housing.”
Those testifying said that because of the high demand for temporary housing, rental prices are skyrocketing, making it difficult for local residents, particularly senior citizens and low-income renters, to afford a place to live.
Several testifiers said houses that would typically rent for $600 a month are now renting for $1,000 to $1,200 month. Apartments that typically rent for $400 a month are now more than double that.
In addition, those testifying said that landlords are less likely to work with tenants who are overdue on their payments or to renew rental contracts when they can lease the unit to a gas company that will pay much higher rent. And the demand for private rentals is causing an even greater waiting list for consumers in need of public housing – which creates even more pressure on the market.
“Most of those testifying today believe that we can and will address these issues in the long-term, but we need to start working together now to find solutions and develop appropriate housing plans and strategies,” Yaw said. “This housing issue is unique to our area and so we need to bring together all those affected to find an effective way to handle this challenge of supply and demand.”
Contact: Adam Pankake