By Francis Scarcella

The Daily Item

SELINSGROVE -- Relocation difficulties may be compounded for residents of a public housing complex who face dwindling rental vacancies and an economic climate less-suited toward home-buying.

While there are about 700 rental units in Selinsgrove -- not counting the 100 at Pine Meadow, which Susquehanna University will own and use for students after Nov. 16 -- and more than 2,100 in Sunbury, many are occupied.

"Believe it or not, we are pretty filled up over here as far as I know," Sunbury Mayor David Persing said. "There really isn't that much."

A substantial portion of Selinsgrove's rental market is tied up in student housing for Susquehanna University.

About 20 percent of the students who need housing at the 2,000-student school live off-campus, a university spokeswoman said.

"The reason I make that distinction is that not all of our students are on campus during any given semester because we have a number of students living abroad or at some other U.S. locations because of our Global Opportunities program," Susquehanna's Angela Burrows said.

"We anticipate that once Pine Meadow is available to students, we'll initially have fewer students living in the borough. That said, we are projecting enrollment growth over the long term, so it's possible we'll see an increase in students living in the borough, despite using Pine Meadow for student housing, because of the anticipated growth."

That may open some rentals, Burrows said.

Maybe not, said Lise Barrick, associate broker for Coldwell Banker Penn One Real Estate, of Lewisburg.

"There are a lot of investment properties in the city of Sunbury, but no availability," Barrick said. "In the whole Valley, a lot of people are coming in and can't sell their house in more metropolitan markets, so they are renting."

Some of the problems reflect banking regulations, Barrick said.

"Lending laws got so stringent that you need at least a 600 or 650 credit score to buy," she said. "It used to be you could have under 600 to qualify. A couple years ago they could get 100 percent financing loans and have the seller pay 6 percent towards closing costs."

Even good-paying jobs aren't enough to convince people to buy a home, she said.

"They can still be cash poor," Barrick said. "It's easier to rent than buy because of the economy."

Barrick said she gets numerous inquiries about rentals, and years ago was able to provide callers with housing.

Now rentals are difficult to find.

"They just aren't out there," Barrick said. "And it's causing frustration for people who have to rent."

Young professionals who move to the Valley are afraid to purchase homes in the uncertain economy, Barrick said.

"A lot of people out there who would buy after renting are now insecure about job security because they are afraid they won't have a job in a year," she said. "And even if they are well qualified, they are still backing off and staying renting. It's not specific to Sunbury. It's like this in the whole Valley."

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