Feb 24, 2022 - News

Center City housing rebounding from pandemic lows

Center City  view from a parking garage in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Photo: Hannah Yoon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Center City view from a parking garage in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Hannah Yoon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Center City's residential housing market saw gains last year, but long-term issues continue to hamper the city's growth.

Here are some of the top takeaways:

Building bonanza: New housing units proposed or under active construction in Greater Center City soared to 17,279 by the end of 2021, up from 5,352 in 2020 and 3,982 in 2019.

  • Greater Center City accounted for 50% of the total new units proposed or under construction last year.
  • Residential building permits issued in the city increased to 2,672 by the end of 2021, up from 1,482 in 2020 and 1,320 in 2019.

Of note: Greater Center City extends from Girard Avenue to Tasker Street and stretches from river to river.

Apartments galore: Apartments dominated the new housing supply in Greater Center City last year, accounting for 95% of all newly built units (1,689).

  • While no condominiums were added in Center City in 2020 or 2021, at least a pair of major projects are on track to be completed this year.

Mostly white, young residents: Greater Center City is made up of mostly white residents (62%), compared to 15% Black, 11% Asian and 7% Hispanic or Latino residents, which is out of line with the city's overall population demographics.

  • Young adults aged 20-34 make up 38% of Greater Center City's population, compared to 26% citywide.

Rising housing prices, rents: Home sales in the Greater Center City area increased 44% between 2019 and 2021, compared to 14% citywide.

  • Rents increased 13.6% between the fourth quarter of 2020 to the same time in 2021 in "Core Center City," located between Vine and Pine Streets, compared to 10.6% citywide.
  • Average monthly rent in Greater Center City is now $1,786, up from $1,500 in 2014.

Struggles: While the report said Philadelphia remains "very affordable" for both owners and renters, that affordability is challenged by low incomes, and high numbers of households that devote more than 30% of their income to housing, among other issues.

  • The city has only recovered 53% of jobs lost between February and April 2020, compared to 84% nationally, according to the report.

The bottom line: "Fundamentally, the greatest impact on affordability will come from rising incomes and good-paying jobs," the report said.

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