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 2014-18, 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 2014-18 was 2.8, 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 2.7.
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 Hispanics and African Americans (2.5 and 2.2 respectively) than for Asian Americans (2.8) and whites (2.6) in 2014-18.
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 2014-18, renters in Berks spent 33% of their income on rent, slightly more than the state and nation.
Racial and ethnic minorities in Berks County may have particular difficulty. In 2014-18, Hispanics paid 40% of their income on rent, compared to 37% among African American renters, 46% 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 47% 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 12% above 2000 levels as of 2019.
Home prices typically reflect demand for housing, and by extension, the health of the local economy and real estate market. In 2018, the median price of a single-family home in Berks County was about $164,000, a 9% 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 2014-18, 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|
|Early Prenatal Care||Increasing|
|Early Prenatal Care by Mother's Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Children Living in Poverty||Increasing|
|Children Living in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Single-Parent Families by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Live Births to Teen Mothers||Decreasing|
|Change in Population by Age and Gender||Not Applicable|
|Change in Total Population by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Population by Age and Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Change in Labor Force||Increasing|
|Employment to Population ratio||Decreasing|
|Change in Jobs by Sector||Not Applicable|
|Sector Share of Total Jobs||Not Applicable|
|Average Salary by Sector||Not Applicable|
|Change in Average Salary by Sector||Not Applicable|
|People Entering/Leaving County/Region for Work||Not Applicable|
|Spending for Local Governments||Maintaining|
|Spending for Counties||Maintaining|
|Spending for School Districts||Maintaining|
|Quality Early Childhood Centers||Increasing|
|Students Eligible for Free/Reduced Price Lunch||Increasing|
|English Language Learners||Increasing|
|Students Receiving Special Education Services||Increasing|
|Per Student Spending||Maintaining|
|Student Performance on Grade 3 English||Not Applicable|
|Student Performance on Grade 3 Math||Not Applicable|
|Student Performance on Grade 8 English||Not Applicable|
|Student Performance on Grade 8 Math||Not Applicable|
|Student Performance on High School English||Decreasing|
|Student Performance on High School Math||Maintaining|
|High School Cohort Graduation Rate||Increasing|
|Education Levels of Adults, by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Plans of High School Graduates||Not Applicable|
|Median Household Income||Maintaining|
|Median Household Income by Household Type||Not Applicable|
|Living Wage||Not Applicable|
|People Living in Poverty||Increasing|
|People Receiving Federal Food Assistance||Increasing|
|Health Status||Not Applicable|
|People Enrolled in Medicaid Managed Care||Increasing|
|People Without Health Insurance||Decreasing|
|Physically Inactive Adults||Not Applicable|
|Adults Who are Overweight or Obese||Not Applicable|
|Students in 7-12 Overweight or Obese||Not Applicable|
|Students in K-6 Overweight or Obese||Not Applicable|
|Vacant Housing Units||Increasing|
|Cost of Homeownership||Maintaining|
|Cost of Homeownership, by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Cost of Rent||Increasing|
|Cost of Rent, by Race/Ethnicity||Not Applicable|
|Age of Housing Stock||Not Applicable|
|Single-Family Home Sales||Increasing|
|Median Single-Family Home Sale Price||Maintaining|
|Voter Registration Rate||Decreasing|
|Voter Participation Rate||Decreasing|
|Average Charitable Giving||Maintaining|
|Contributions as a Percentage of Income||Maintaining|
|Households With Internet Access||Not Applicable|
|Drug Abuse Offenses||Increasing|
|Drug Abuse Arrests||Increasing|
|Protection from Domestic Abuse||Maintaining|
|Means of Transportation to Work||Not Applicable|
|Average Travel Time to Work||Increasing|
|Crashes Involving Alcohol||Decreasing|
|Households Without Vehicles||Decreasing|