Region’s housing market remains the picture of stability

by Pittsburgh Today Staff
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The regional housing market stayed in character in 2015, with home prices appreciating but at a slower rate than in most other Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions.

Homeownership is high across the Pittsburgh MSA. U.S. Census Bureau data show that 69.3 percent of homes in the seven-​county MSA are occupied by their owners. Only Minneapolis among the benchmark regions has a higher homeownership rate and only slightly so.

Regional homeowners saw third-​quarter 2015 home prices rise just under 4.1 percent from the previous year. That’s below the benchmark average and well below one-​year appreciation in Denver, where prices jumped 13.9 percent to lead the pack.

But the Pittsburgh MSA housing market has long lacked drama. Its enduring characteristics are stability and steady, if unspectacular, growth. Housing prices, for example, have increased 13.8 percent over the past five years and have risen 21.9 percent over the past 10. Denver is the only benchmark region where long-​term appreciation rates are higher.

Southwestern Pennsylvania’s housing market is not without blemishes. Its housing stock is the oldest among Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions. And 10.3 percent of housing units across the region are vacant. Only four of the 14 other benchmark regions have higher vacancy.

In the City of Pittsburgh, 15 percent of 143,000 parcels on average were vacant between 2008 and 2010, according to a 2015 University of Pittsburgh study of city neighborhoods. And in several neighborhoods, such as Allegheny Center and Homewood South, one third or more of the housing stands vacant.

The city adopted a land bank ordinance in 2014 to more quickly and effectively move vacant tax-​delinquent properties onto the market and into use. But the land bank it created has been slow to develop. Its board met for the first time in August — 16 months after the mayor signed the bill. And while Philadelphia’s land bank took possession of its first 150 properties in December, the strategies, policies and procedures necessary for the Pittsburgh land bank to do the same were still works in progress at year’s end.

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