Pew study: Drop in Philadelphia’s homeownership rate among highest in nation

Still, more Philadelphians own their homes than do residents of other major East Coast and Midwest cities. And more low-income Philadelphians are homeowners than in most other places, too.

Home ownership rates in Philadelphia have decreased by more than 7 percent since 2000 – the second-largest drop among large U.S. cities.

A Pew Charitable Trusts analysis of census data, just released in the report, Homeownership in Philadelphia: On the Decline, finds that 52.2 percent of Philadelphia’s housing units were owner-occupied in 2012, down from 59.3 percent in 2000. Only Phoenix had a sharper drop.

“The drop in homeownership in Philadelphia has gone largely unnoticed, perhaps because the city was not hit as hard as some other communities by the housing crash that occurred before and during the Great Recession,” said Larry Eichel, project director of Pew’s Philadelphia research initiative, in a printed statement. “The shift from owning to renting, should it continue, has the potential to be a major change. Having fewer homeowners could alter the character of various sections of the city in any number of ways.”

Home ownership rates dropped nation wide after the Great Recession. And while the percentage drop in ownership, and the corresponding rise in renting, is significant, Pew notes that Philadelphia’s home ownership rate remains high compared with other major cities in the Northeast and Midwest. Philadelphia also continues to have a high percentage of low-income homeowners compared to other cities. People who earn less than $35,000 owned almost 38 percent of owner-occupied city residences in 2012. Among the 30 largest U.S. Cities, only Detroit has a larger percentage of low-income home owners.

The Philadelphia home ownership story is more nuanced than the city-wide numbers suggest, however. 

In 31 of the city’s 46 residential ZIP codes, at least half of all housing is owner-occupied. Eleven of the 31 ZIP codes are in Northeast Philadelphia.  Torresdale North has the city’s highest rate of home ownership, 82 percent.

From 2000 to 2012, homeownership levels declined the most in Lower Northeast Philadelphia and increased the most in and around Center City. Econmic factors aren’t the only force fueling the change in home ownership levels. Pew found that attitudes about home ownership have also changed – to many people, owning a home just isn’t as important as it once was.

Other key findings:

  • From 2000 to 2012, a period during which homeownership declined nationally, the number of owner-occupied units in the city fell by 47,082 to 302,551, and the number of rentals grew by 36,885 to 277,323.
  • The decline in Philadelphia homeownership was most pronounced among groups usually considered to be traditional homebuyers: married couples and families with children. Even as homeownership dropped citywide, it rose among single-person households.
  • A large share of Philadelphia homes have been paid off – 41 percent of city home owners do not have mortages, the third-highest rate among the largest cities, behind Detroit and Houston.

To download the full report and take the interactive homeownership quiz, visit

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