(HARRISBURG) – Business closures, job restructures, and health worries have caused more people to relocate to northeastern Pennsylvania, not merely out of choice, but often times out of necessity, according to Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), who highlighted that a local housing boom has taken place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Baker explained that the Center for Rural Pennsylvania has completed a report of an analysis of statewide residential property transfer data. From 2019 to 2020, there was a 7 percent increase in rural home sales, and a 6 percent decrease in urban home sales statewide. Data was collected to conduct more in-depth analyses of property transfers in Monroe, Pike, Wayne, Susquehanna, and Somerset counties.
“The study reinforces what many local leaders have observed with population changes since the pandemic and a suspected undercount with respect to the census,” Senator Baker said. “Elected officials and community leaders in Susquehanna, Wayne and Pike counties have been voicing significant challenges in meeting the increased need for services for everything from water supply and waste disposal, to emergency medical services.”
In Pike County, Delaware Valley School District estimates 42 percent of its property taxes are paid by non-resident taxpayers. In addition, they have experienced their first increase in enrollment since 2006, and transfer taxes are once again at $1 million per year, after previously leveling off at $100,000 annually over the last decade. In Wayne County, nearly fifty percent of homes are owned by people residing elsewhere.
According to Baker, the report highlights that in general, those out-of-county purchasers who bought property in Pike, Susquehanna and Wayne counties came from a county that had a significantly higher COVID infection rate. If these buyers do take up residency, it is unlikely they were captured in the 2020 Census. The 2020 Census data are meant to reflect residency as of April 1, 2020. If the transfers reflect a change of permanent address after April 1, they will not be included in reapportion counts or in the distribution of state and federal funds that are based on Census data.
“While this study cannot determine whether buyers from out of state will prove to be seasonal or permanent residents, either way, the newcomers can be expected to join longtime residents of our region in pushing hard for improvements to both physical and service infrastructure,” Senator Baker noted. “Our region deserves greater access to healthcare coverage, emergency services, and well maintained roads.”
It is also worth recognizing the increased supply chain demand that comes with an influx of residents. A prime example is that from January 2021 to October 2021, the Lake Region IGA in Hawley experienced a 20 percent increase in sales, versus that same period in 2020, when we know the demand for groceries was already at a record high.
“Both increased federal and state support will be needed to improve our infrastructure. As we adjust to the trend of population increases within our community, it is paramount that we continue to come together and be a strong voice for rural Pennsylvania receiving our fair share of funding,” Senator Baker concluded.
The report has been shared with all members of the General Assembly, legislative members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission and commissioners of the case study counties. The full report, Welcome to Rural PA: COVID-19 and Residential Property Sales, is also available to members of the public online at www.rural.pa.gov.
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