How Tech is Reshaping Pittsburgh's Housing

Pittsburgh has been undergoing a tech revolution. Recently profiled in the New York Times as a city that has gotten a "tech-makeover," the former steel town has been reimagined as a new hub for technology innovation. With Silicon Valley giants like Google, Uber and Facebook setting up shop in the Western Pennsylvanian city, as well as a wealth of fresh talent courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University's prestigious computer science and engineering programs, the tech sector is dramatically shifting the landscape of Pittsburgh.

The Boom

In many ways, the tech boom has benefitted the city. Like many rust belt cities, Pittsburgh had suffered as steel and manufacturing jobs faded away. The influx of high paying tech jobs rebooted the local economy and helped increase the city's average household income. According to the US Census, the average household income in Pittsburgh was $54,080 per year in 2015, which was a 3.3% increase since 2014, and was an increase of 3.76% over the past three years. Pittsburgh's average household income is still slightly lower than both Pennsylvania and the national average, but it can't be questioned that the small city's economy is thriving.

However, an increase in wages has lead to an increase in living expenses, and many long time residents are being left behind. According to Stefani Pashman, the director of a nonprofit in Pittsburgh, there has been a 10% growth in tech jobs in the past ten years, but the labor market as a whole has only grown 2%. Opportunity is skewed towards tech, and tech is skewed towards white males. As Silicon Valley's ongoing scandals illustrate, the tech industry has a huge diversity problem. While the influx of tech jobs in Pittsburgh is benefitting many young, highly educated white men, for much of the city, which trends older and blacker, these high paying positions are out of reach. These old time Pittsburghers must deal with the mounting housing and living costs brought on by this new, wealthier population of tech professionals.

Wages Up, Rents Up

Housing prices have been rapidly increasing in Pittsburgh; especially in neighborhoods surrounding these newly constructed tech offices. Google built their Pittsburgh headquarters in Bakery Square, an enclave of luxury condos and high end shopping right next to the historically low income East Liberty. East Liberty has been facing waves of gentrification in the past few years. With the opening of Target and Whole Foods in recent years, East Liberty has begun to attract a new, wealthier crowd.

As a whole, Pittsburgh is a relatively affordable city. As of September 2017, the average rent citywide was $1266 per month. One bedroom apartments in Pittsburgh cost $1120 per month on average, and two bedroom apartments rent for $1445 per month on average.

However, near these new tech offices, rental rates are much higher. The average rent for a place within three quarters of a mile of the Google office in Bakery Square is $1709 per month, nearly $500 more per month than the city average.

Uber has made a similar impact on the city. The Uber offices are located in the Strip District, a formerly industrial neighborhood known for its wholesale food. In recent years however, The Strip has become a cool cultural corner of the city, with a burgeoning nightlife scene and some of the best restaurants in town. Though for much of its history, the Strip was a wholesale area composed primarily of warehouses and businesses, it has begun to attract attention from real estate developers. Developers are looking to harness the industrial charm of the Strip District to sell luxury condos and apartment buildings. The Cork Factory, a huge building of high-end lofts, opened recently, transforming a former factory space into luxury housing.

The average rent for an apartment within a one-mile radius of the Uber Advanced Technology offices is $1770 per month, more than $500 higher than the average rental price citywide. One bedrooms in this housing zone average $1499 per month, two bedrooms cost $1968 on average, and three bedrooms rent for $2042 per month on average.

A Contentious Relationship

Clearly where technology companies go, rent hikes follow. As tech sweeps across the steel city, rental prices have been steadily increasing. The city has had a contentious relationship with the tech industry. The city government has encouraged the growth of the tech sector, while many grassroots organizations have protested the gentrification and growing unaffordability of the city. Pittsburgh's mayor, Bill Peduto, had a well publicized falling out with Uber this year, after announcing that Uber had failed to give back to the city.

Pittsburgh is one of the cities Amazon is considering expanding into. It is estimated that Amazon will bring more than 50,000 new high paying jobs and $5 billion dollars of investment to the city it chooses. As a city of only 303,625 people, this would radically reshape Pittsburgh. The question is, who, exactly, benefits from the technology industry in Pittsburgh. Check out our rental listings to learn more about the Pittsburgh housing market.

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