Category Archives: Housing
Through their website, Envision Lehigh Valley received a total of 1,118 completed surveys as well as feedback from 47 public meetings that were held through the fall. The breakdown of the participants represented an accurate cross section of our regional population on the characteristics of race, age, income and location.
In the 47 focus groups that were held during the public meetings, Lehigh Valley residents appeared to be most interested in discussing economic development, which they saw as a positive thing for the region.
They mentioned large projects currently being undertaken across the Lehigh Valley. Participants discussed projects such as the hockey arena, casino, and ArtsQuest. Projects involving specific companies, including Ocean Spray, and the Lehigh Valley Hospital Expansion, were mentioned as well as more generic business expansions like the Allentown waterfront project, the P&P Mill, and new hotels and retail space in various locations.
Focus group participants were generally dissatisfied with the types of jobs available to Lehigh Valley workers and didn’t believe the job market matched the qualifications most workers have.
The groups also examined other topics; citizens talked 652 times about housing, 549 times about fresh food access, and 378 times about climate and energy.
One of the most interesting findings to come out of the focus group analysis is that the overall interests and topics of discussion varied very little in the different cities, boroughs, and townships where they were held. These commonalities suggest that quality of life factors in the Lehigh Valley are important across the valley, not just in one or two communities.
Last week we told you a little bit about the huge population growth expected to hit the Lehigh Valley within the next thirty years. We broke it down by county, but now the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has a Profile and Trends report that can show you how much your municipality is expected to grow by 2040.
If you go to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s website, http://www.lvpc.org, click ‘Enter the Site,’ choose ‘Publications’ on the left side of the page and select the Profile and Trends report, you’ll find the unique histories of Lehigh Valley municipalities, average daily mileage for residents, property values, birth rates, death rates and what we were talking about before – local population percentages (if that’s all you’re looking for, head straight to page 23).
Do you live in North Whitehall? Your local population right now is around 15,703…in 2040, it’s projected to be over 26,000!
Maybe you live in Palmer Township, where the population is now around 17,000 and in thirty years, it will be over 27,000.
Want to see how big your community is going to get? Head over to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s website or look at the chart below where you can find population growth in municipalities from Alburtis to Wind Gap.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has completed a study to predict the growth of the Lehigh Valley over the next thirty years. The Reader’s Digest version would say that there are A LOT of people coming to the region. Our population is projected to add another 226,722 people by 2040. The total population will be 873,954 in the LV at that time.
Using 2010 census data, the Planning Commission is able to detect trends in the growth patterns of Lehigh and Northampton counties and is able to break them down by age group to show specifically where we’ll be growing. It’s no secret that the baby boomer generation is aging, and that is shown clearly in the report. The largest growing age demographic will be the 75 and over crowd, who will add 54,265 people to their ranks. Coming second in growth rate are the 70-74 year olds, growing by 20,946.
As much as the elderly seem to love the Lehigh Valley, the young are leaving the region. One of the largest exits from the area is from 20-24 year old males with college degrees who lived here when they were pursuing their education and then moved away for jobs or other opportunities upon graduation.
Countering this trend is the influx of those in their later twenties, who often move to the region when they begin to start a family. As far as starting families goes, birth rates in Northampton County are expected to top the state average for every 5 year range that was studied. Lehigh County’s will stay closer to the state average or below.
Northampton County will also grow at a higher rate of 11.9 percent compared to Lehigh County’s 11.5 percent. The Planning Commission predicts that this is because of Northampton County’s proximity to New Jersey and New York as more employees from those states choose to live in Pennsylvania.
So, what do you think of all of this population growth? If you’ve got ideas or opinions on how the Lehigh Valley can better prepare or improve its existing stature, visit http://www.envisionlehighvalley.com and share your feedback or take one of the surveys about economic development, fresh food access, transportation and job/housing balance. With the massive growth in our region, we have to plan ahead so that residents, new and old, will have access to jobs, transportation, housing and food. People are flocking to the Lehigh Valley for a reason, let’s plan ahead to keep it great.
Time to give thanks for $3.4 million coming to the Lehigh Valley from HUD! On Monday, 21 November 2011, HUD announced $96 million worth of “Sustainable Communities Awards” which were distributed to help communities create jobs and improve housing, transportation, and the economy in urban and rural areas. There were requests for over $500 million in funding from communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, so as you can see, the competition was tough; only 29 regional areas received “Regional Planning” grants nationwide.
According to HUD’s press release: “The Regional Planning Grant program encourages grantees to support regional planning efforts that integrate housing, land-use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure developments in a manner that empowers regions to consider how all of these factors work together to create more jobs and economic opportunities. The program will place a priority on partnerships, including the collaboration of arts and culture, philanthropy, and innovative ideas to the regional planning process.” (To read the full release, click here: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2011/HUDNo.11-274 ).
The article contains a chart listing every award in the country. There were only two awards granted in Pennsylvania: one in Erie and one in the Lehigh Valley. Another noteworthy fact is that only five of the 56 awards were greater than the $3.4 million granted to the LehighValley. Obviously HUD took notice of the impact our regional cooperation is already having and is encouraging us to continue to improve on the good things that are happening here.
Now, here’s where you come in. It is time to have your voice heard! Speak up and let us know what you want to see in the plan for YOUR communities. Renew Lehigh Valley is responsible for the “public participation” or community engagement piece. Start thinking as a participant in this process. More to come as the plan unfolds…
In the meantime, relax, enjoy your turkey, and give thanks.
DCStreetsBlog did an interview series(Part 1, part 2) with Maria Zimmerman the Deputy Director for Sustainable Communities at the department of Housing and Urban Development, and Brian Sullivan from the Office of Public Affairs. The series highlights not only the importance and reasoning behind the three agencies’ partnership, but also the challenges of working together. It’s a really informative series. Here’s a few choice sections, mostly on the technical issues the agencies have had to overcome:
Maria Zimmerman: In terms of messaging, we have always felt there is a strong economic need for investing more smartly, leveraging our resources. Federal coordination is just cost effectiveness.
That message is one we can be stronger on. We’ve talked about some of the environmental and quality-of-life reasons for sustainability – we can do a better job of explaining what are the costs of not investing this way and what are the savings if we do. It’s really about trying to invest more wisely.
MZ: To set up the process to review the grants, we all had these amazing firewalls of our internet systems to prevent hacking, and literally just getting between the firewalls was an unbelievable headache. That involved countless calls, and countless IT people. And yeah, we have different budgeting codes from OMB and from Congress, so coordinating can be quite a bit of effort.
Sullivan: We didn’t even have their phone number a year ago.
MZ: For instance, for HUD CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) money, we have a preference for local hiring. And our funds can be used as a match for DOT funds, but DOT has provisions against local hiring – you have to do a competitive bid. So if you have a project and you’re trying to bring together DOT and CDBG money, you either have to create a strange artificial wall, or what most folks do is say, we’re not going to pool that money – it’s too hard. That would require a Congressional fix.
There are real improvements in quality of life to be gained from the partnership. A concerted government effort towards achieving livability and sustainability is a pretty big step in the bureaucracy, and it’s really encouraging to see what steps the organizations are taking agency-wide in their pursuit of livable communities. What really interests me, though, is how these agencies have to work together to begin to work together — overcoming competing policy goals and regulations, making their technology compatible, and even something as simple as talking to each other. It’s a way for the agencies to reduce duplication of effort, standardize the technologies they use and achieve something close to economies of scales in their policies.
Matt Taibbi came out with another article on the economic crisis. This time, he’s looking at how implicit the court systems may have become in letting things like robosigning slide, and how some are evening doing it themselves.
“Because in America, it’s far more shameful to owe money than it is to steal it.”
Taibbi’s pieces are sometimes a bit too apocalyptic and doom and gloom, but it does ram home a very important point: the ones who live in the house tend to be blamed for the foreclosure and at times the economic crisis, rather than the banks which construct these systems that profit from absurd rates of turnover and inflated asset values.
The cover story for the September 6, 2010 issue of TIME Magazine is entitled Rethinking Homeownership. (An abridged version of the article is available online HERE.)
The strength of the article is that it highlights the complexity of the homeownership issue. The following excerpt captures the gist of the article:
A house with a front lawn and a picket fence wasn’t just a nice place to live or a risk-free investment; it was a way to transform a nation … No wonder leaders of all political stripes wanted to spend more than $100 billion a year on subsidies and tax breaks to encourage people to buy. But our leaders, with our encouragement, went much to far … Now, as the U.S. recovers from the biggest housing bust since the Great Depression, it is time to rethink how realistic our expectations of homeownership are — and how much money we want to spend chasing them.
The article addresses the historical and cultural narratives idealizing “homesteaders” and agrarian life as well as the archetype of the urban metropolis as grimy and dangerous. It also addresses and calls into question some of the assumptions underlying the traditional response of policy makers — “the more, the merrier” — to the homeownership question: regarding educational outcomes for children; social stability and civic engagement; the cost to the government (and thus to the people) of incentivizing ownership through the federal mortgage-interest tax deduction.
As for recommendations:
. . . save more, invest in people through better education and training, and use the levers of government to help create high-quality jobs — the kind you can raise a family on — instead of coaxing people into becoming homeowners.
If you have or come across a copy of the issue, Rethinking Homeownership is worth a read.
The new issue of Community Investments focuses on transit-oriented development (TOD) and the impact such development has on communities. The article that caught my eye? The Role of Transportation Planning and Policy in Shaping Communities. Naomi Cytron describes the ways in which transportation policies over the past decades have led to socioeconomic (and, in turn, racial) segregation — even exacerbating the problem.
But the suburban migration that ensued left behind minority households in particular, who were unable to leave central cities for the suburbs due to discrimination in housing and mortgage markets. For example, exclusionary zoning practices and racially restrictive covenants barred minorities from living or purchasing property in newly developing suburban neighborhoods. And as late as the mid-1960s, minorities were largely unable to qualify for federally guaranteed mortgages, greatly limiting their ability to purchase new homes being built in the suburbs.
Cytron writes that much of that is now changing, as the long commutes have led to a severe deterioration in quality of life (who wants to be in a car 3 hours a day?) and increased unaffordability. TOD is providing more families with choice and moving us toward a more equitable society. Of course, as Cytron rightly points out, “TODs are not a panacea.” But they certainly are moving us in a direction that feels a bit better.
Since the Livable Communities Act passed out of the Senate Banking Committee, it has been gaining support of smart growth advocates who hope that the bill will bring about resources “to integrate transportation, housing, economic development and environmental planning.” The Tri-State Transportation Campaign reports:
It would also establish a new Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities in the Department of Housing and Urban Development to coordinate federal policies that foster sustainable development and provide technical assistance to communities. This would effectively formalize the recent partnership between the federal transportation, housing, and environmental agencies, which has thus far rewarded projects which combine transportation and efficient land use.
It is encouraging to see all of this push on sustainability and livability coming out of the federal governement. Hoping that all of this advocacy work materializes into real change in the way that communities are planned in America.
So alleges recent research on the issue. Matthew Yglesias reports on the latest findings by Haifang Huang and Yao Tang (PDF) “Residential Land Use Regulation and the US Housing Price Cycle Between 2000 and 2009″ on his blog. He cites this from the research –
In a sample covering more than 300 cities in the US between January 2000 and July 2009, we find that more restrictive residential land use regulations and geographic land constraints are linked to larger booms and busts in housing prices.
This provides some food for thought about the way land-use planning is regulated within our nation. Standard planning — one that relies on outdated zoning laws — favors low-density design. Yet, as is suggested here, this may not be good for the economy.