Homeownership is an important factor for neighborhood stability and a vital financial asset for families. Home sales have rebounded in Berks County since the national housing crisis. Home prices also stabilized, and overall, homes remain affordable here. Renters, however, spend more of their income on rent here than at the state or national levels, particularly among racial and ethnic minorities.
In 2013-17, homeowners occupied 72% of the homes in Berks County, a higher percentage than at the state or national level. Homeownership declined 2 percentage points since 2000, similar to Pennsylvania and the U.S.
Home affordability can be measured by dividing the median home value by the median household income. A ratio below 2 or 3 is usually affordable. Berks County’s ratio in 2013-17 was 2.9, similar to the state and below the nation. While this suggests that homes in Berks County are generally affordable, affordability at the county level has declined since 2000, when the ratio was 2.3.
Housing also is generally more affordable for all racial and ethnic groups in Berks County than at the state and national levels. The ratios were lower for Asian Americans (2.3) than for Hispanics, whites (both 2.6) and African Americans (2.8).
However, renters in Berks County may face difficulties paying for housing. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s guideline for affordability says that rent should consume no more than 30% of a household’s income. In 2013-17, renters in Berks spent 34% of their income on rent, slightly more than the state and nation.
Racial and ethnic minorities in Berks County may have particular difficulty. In 2012-16, Hispanics paid 46% of their income on rent, compared to 45% among African American renters, 41% among Asian Americans and 29% among white residents. These disparities were more pronounced here than at the state or national levels.
The age of housing stock can indicate the condition and quality of homes in a community, as well as the potential cost of repairs and maintenance. In Berks County, 27% of homes were built before 1940. This proportion is similar to Pennsylvania, but higher than the national level. In the U.S., about half of homes were built since 1970, compared to 46% in Berks County.
Single-family home sales can indicate demand for housing, and by extension, the health of a community’s economy. In Berks County, home sales steadily increased until 2005 and then dropped every year until 2011. Sales have since recovered and were 11% above 2000 levels as of 2017.
Home prices typically reflect demand for housing, and by extension, the health of the local economy and real estate market. In 2017, the median price of a single-family home in Berks County was about $164,900, a 12% increase over the median in 2000. During this period, the median home price increased steadily and peaked in 2007. Prices then dropped until 2011 and remained flat until increasing in 2016 and 2017.
The percentage of vacant housing units indicates whether an area has many vacancies, which may be a sign of blight or decline. In 2013-17, 7% of residential housing units in Berks were vacant. This percentage was less than Pennsylvania and the nation. Berks County’s vacancy rate increased 1 percentage point from 2000, below the increases at the state and national levels.
|INDICATORS||TREND | BERKS COUNTY|