The Lehigh Valley will need 95,000 more homes in the next 25 years.
It needs more affordable homes and apartments for low-income and modest-income households.
It needs more homes for high-income households as well.
And it needs more homes closer to where many people work.
But it probably will not need many more single-family dwelling units on suburban lots aimed at the middle-class market.
Those were just a few of the many key findings in a study of the Lehigh Valley’s housing market that was introduced to nearly 100 people by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission late Thursday afternoon in Allentown.
The results are being incorporated into a Lehigh Valley Regional Housing Plan, which LVPC promises will be the most significant assessment ever done on the housing market in Lehigh and Northampton counties.
When completed before the end of August, the plan – complete with recommendations -- will serve as a guide for future residential development in both counties.
It will show what kinds of homes are most needed and who needs them.
Many local elected officials, municipal planners and at least two school district superintendents attended the two-hour presentation on the plan in the Rodale Room in Miller Symphony Hall, as did plus representatives of developers and lending institutions.
Becky Bradley, LVPC’s executive director, said the plan will help her agency assist the 62 municipalities and 17 school districts in the two counties, as well as “developers, bankers, Realtors and the non-profit housing sector.”
She said questions asked by some people in the audience during the second half of the meeting will be used to help develop the plan’s goals.
Without such a planning tool, municipalities could approve housing developments for markets that don’t exist, explained Kyle Talente of RKG Associates, LVPC’s consultant on the plan.
Saying successful regional housing planning will require coordination and cooperation, Talente urged those in the audience: “Let’s work together to identify ways to address the needs that are here in the Valley.”
“There are certain income bands, and certain parts of the Valley, where people don’t have a very good housing choice,” said Talente. “One of the goals is how we can make that better.”
He said another goal is to diversify the types of available housing.
A third is more focus on rehabilitation and revitalization of existing neighborhoods. He said doing that is just as important in providing high quality housing as building new homes.
A fourth objective is to enable developers “to diversify the supply at different income bands.”
Said Talente: “It is not all about the low end. It also is about the high end. That’s why this is a regional housing study, not just an affordable housing study.
“There is need at different ends of the market. How do you provide for both of them?
“And hopefully, from a sustainability standpoint, how do you provide for both of them in the same development -- trying to build integrated communities rather than continuing to isolate by income.”
He said now there’s an imbalance between people’s ability to pay and housing that is available.
A housing shift
Between 1980 and 2007, developers were proposing far more single-family dwelling units than any other type of housing in the Lehigh Valley, said David Berryman, LVPC’s chief community planner. He said that trend stopped in 2008, during the national recession.