Northampton County Council was briefed Thursday night on the "new normal" that's settled in the Lehigh Valley since the 2008 financial crisis.
Summing up the economic conditions in Lehigh and Northampton counties, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission said, "... income growth remains slow, mortgage credit remains tight and the demand for single family housing has yet to recover."
"While surveys indicate that most households continue aspire to home ownership, the ability of many households to finance home purchases is likely to remain constrained in the near future," Becky Bradley, executive director of LVPC, said.
Meanwhile the demand for apartments has risen among all age and income groups, and rental vacancy rates are at their lowest levels in decades. As a result, she said, apartment construction is likely to drive growth in new residential construction over the next five years.
While the number of housing permits issued nationally have rebounded to slightly more than half their 2005 peak, new residential construction is "particularly sluggish in the region's boroughs," according to a LVPC development report.
Unlike Las Vegas and areas of Florida and southern California, among others, the regional economy in the Lehigh Valley has recovered without relying on real estate and construction, and unemployment has continued to drop as a result, she said.
According to the report, the construction of apartments and assisted living developments has largely driven the recovery, with condominiums and townhouses emerging as the key players.
"This shift away from single family detached housing reflects fundamental economic, demographic and culture trends that are transforming not only the regional housing landscape, but the national housing landscape as well," she said.
Another significant change involves the fate of strip malls, as more and more shopping is done on line, she said.
Internet shopping has spurred the explosive growth of warehouses along the Route 33 Interstate 78 corridor. The report cities the "Wall Street Journal," which reported "no U.S. Industrial market has grown as fast as the Interstate 78/Interstate 81 corridor between 2010 and 2016.