In a five-county area of Central Pennsylvania, renter-occupied units made up 29.5 percent of all occupied dwellings in 2011, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
That was up from 27.3 percent in 2006.
Over that span, the number of occupied homes in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties grew by more than 11,500 units, or 1.9 percent, census figures show.
Meanwhile, the number of renter-occupied units in the midstate grew by about 16,600 from 2006 to 2011, totaling more than 181,500 units.
"The No. 1 contributing factor on why rental demand is so strong is the subprime mortgage collapse," said Zack Wiest, CEO of PA Deals LLC, a Paxtang-based real estate investment company.
PA Deals, which sells properties to buy-and-hold investors, also has a property management division called Fusion Asset Management, which oversees about 350 properties. The company focuses primarily on Cumberland and Dauphin counties.
The housing collapse took a huge segment of buyers out of the market — many of whom probably had no business buying in the first place — and led to higher mortgage qualification standards.
"The demand for good rentals is stronger than it has been in decades," Wiest said, citing extremely low interest rates, which also helps keep rental prices stable.
The slowly recovering market also has made it harder for prospective move-up buyers to unload current properties because sale prices took a hit.
Some sellers may choose to contract with a property management firm to rent them to avoid foreclosure.