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  • Writer's pictureMichael Hays

Mailbox: "We Don't Need Any More Affordable"

Letters-to-the-editor remain one of the most read sections of news websites. Meanwhile, comments on social media accounts are like a raw and unfiltered version of this interaction (akin to the Mercury’s “Sound Off perhaps?). Ok, maybe not like Sound Off.

Below is one comment that I sometimes hear, along with my response, from our Facebook page. 

Todd: As of 2014 Pottstown borough had 361 of the 614 units of public housing in Montgomery County, almost 59% of all units in the entire county, and that didn’t include Rolling Hills in Lower Pottsgrove. Add in Rolling Hills and the general Pottstown area is saturated with “affordable housing”.

And what about Affordable Housing Vouchers, a.k.a. “Section 8”? As of 2014, Pottstown is only the county’s eleventh most populous municipality, comprising a mere 2.8% of the county’s population, but it hosts far and away the second largest number of vouchers, 452. That’s 17.2% of those in the entire county. Consider also that the total number of vouchers in the nine municipalities with greater populations than Pottstown (excluding Norristown) is 323. They collectively host but 71% of what Pottstown does all by itself.

Clearly, Pottstown doesn’t need even one more unit of “affordable housing”, nor should it be expected to handle this crisis. Pottstown has been shouldering the burden of Montco’s less fortunate for decades and it’s time for every other municipality throughout Montco, and also Chesco, to help with this.

*Editor's note: the blog cited in his research stopped updating after 2014. While the numbers have changed slightly, they are close to the current ratios.

Art credit: Pink Floyd

Response (Mike)

I appreciate your input. When I talk about affordable housing, I'm not referring specifically to the Housing Authority, which manages vouchers (aka: Section 8). They also own seven properties with affordable units. I am talking about all options available to those earning low to moderate incomes. For example, I rent a studio for $950 in Bridgeport. I'm lucky because locating any rentals south of $1k is rare. Still, this private housing eats 42% of my income.

People everywhere in our country and county need more affordable options. There are roles for all levels of government. Pottstown Borough, in my view, needs better regulation of its landlords and incentives for developers to offer below market units.

Whether it's Upper Gwynedd or Potttown, we can't shy away from conversations about housing. We should strive to do so with a level of patience, curiosity, and empathy.

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